In recent years, somewhat disappointingly, there's been the accepted notion that involvement in grime scene battles was for the up-and-comers. Gone are the days of the scene's headline names battling it out on radio, or in Jammer's dungeon. Once reaching a certain level of acclaim and visibility, there was simply too much to lose in putting your reputation on the line. With five top 10 singles, two top 10 albums, and two MOBO Awards to his name, Chip's engagement in a lyrical back and forth with Tinie Tempah, who he felt sent subliminal shots at him in a 2014 freestyle, and Manchester newcomer Bugzy Malone (who just felt like chucking it with Chip), points at a shift, not only in his mentality but also in his reputation, one that he has had to fight in order to correct.
On the night of Monday 19th October—stood in the middle of a north London roadside, surrounded by supporters to shoot a diss track visual—Chip rounded off one of the most unlikely comebacks of the year. Earlier that evening at #GrimeAid, a charity event for Syrian refugees, the Tottenham MC headlined and raised the roof, aiming bars at Bugzy and Tinie—who had called him out at 1Xtra Live, just 24 hours prior. At the top of the year, Chip ended a period of silence and surfaced for a Fire In The Booth freestyle, in which he called out any and everyone who wanted to test out his patience on-mic. The direct aim was, of course, Tinie Tempah.
In a scene built on clashing and competition, Chip's words would've been otherwise welcome, were they not delivered with an unpalatable air of arrogance and supremacy. Pausing his FITB midway to hold some sort of impromptu press conference was his first mistake; trying to outline "league tables" within a scene he currently had no standing in, was an even greater bluff. Having tried and, by all accounts, failed to establish himself in the States with T.I's Hustle Gang, the idea of Chip attempting to re-insert himself in this way failed to connect. Even at the height of his success, he wasn't above being ridiculed. The trending hashtag, #ChipmunksHead, wasn't only a jibe on his physical appearance, it also spoke at large on how the scene viewed Chip as lacking in humility during this period.
Big Narstie, the scene's legitimate people's champ, immediately made it known that he felt Chip going at Tinie was a "cheap shot." Worse for him, Bugzy Malone—another apparent man of the people—took up the invite and gave him a piece of his mind on his own Fire In The Booth, leaving Chip's rep sliding toward a position not too dissimilar from one currently occupied by Meek Mill overseas. As Bugzy racked up support, and views (claiming the fastest FITB to one million), this would appear to be the polar opposite of that headline beef, with public sentiment firmly behind the lesser-established MC.
How one of the most visible emcees to emerge from the UK found himself floundering in competition with a relative newcomer, from a city traditionally on the fringes of the scene, speaks volumes about the collective psyche of our nation. The wanton tearing-down of the successful, is a distinctly British trait and one that pervades all areas of public relations from entertainment to sports to politics. Taking five months to finally respond to Bugzy (RATED Awards winner for Best Breakthrough Act) with "Light Work" and then "Run Out Riddim", Chip undoubtedly re-assessed his approach over this time.
THE FANS (AND INDUSTRY) ARE READY TO SEE HIM SHINE, ONE MORE TIME. But this might just be the last chance he gets.
Chip's last studio album, 2011's Transition, was supposed to herald his move towards super-stardom; instead, weighed down by hollow and lifeless collabs, the whole thing just fell flat. As we close out 2015, he's no longer the self-proclaimed "grime scene saviour", but rather a bold and outspoken, battle-ready champion of the underground. In assessing Chip's career to date, the greatest transition he's made has in fact occurred over the last six months. The fans (and industry) are ready to see him shine, one more time. But this might just be the last chance he gets.