In an industry where so many come and go, Chip—who first blew us away as a teen firing 16s with the safety catch fully off—has consistently re-charged the musical landscape, surviving (and nailing) the transition from platinum-selling major label artist to boss of his own Cash Motto stable. Having grappled with life as a rising star from an impressionable age—and in full view of an ever-ready fanbase—a nod to his staying power, growth and accomplishments are not to go amiss (still the youngest rapper to have topped the UK charts, he'd bought his first house by the age of 20).
Only 12 months since his last set, League Of My Own 2, Chip, the last of a generation who sparred on pirate radio, continues to move his multi-genre appreciation formula forward. Embracing love—in a clear departure from the war rhymes of yesteryear—the MC's lyrical abilities don't wane. With production coming from the likes of Diztortion, Parker, Victizzle and Dready and featured guests including Not3s, Jme and Red Rat, his forthcoming album, TEN10, is coming like a bag of pick 'n' mix.
Complex caught up with Chip to find out more.
After you dropped "Darth Vader", I read on YouTube that people thought the production from Lil Silva and Sampha was really different for you. But I would disagree; I don't think it was that different for you.
It's the synths that I hadn't tried before and the groove was defo on the off bounce. The instrumentation is different to something I'd normally pick, but not the style. We hooked up via [engineer] MSM, who I work around, and the lyrics just flew out of my body.
You've just announced you're to release your fourth studio album this year—how would you describe the vibe on TEN10?
It's all love! I think I'm in a more positive space than I was before. Even though there were happy songs on League Of My Own 2, it came off the back of a darker mind-frame.
You're frequently positioned as a grime scene saviour but from what I've heard, this album isn't any one genre, but rather an amalgamation of sounds.
My thing is this: I play my part for every musical genre I like to do. When I was dissing everyone, I chose beats from my childhood. People said I was going hard for grime and, yes, there are kids who are into grime who've never heard a set, so I'm going to pick those classic beats because it's the right thing to do.
And the new single, "My Girl"—what's the story with that?
The rise of Afro-swing had me feeling super in touch with my Caribbean roots. Red Rat classics all still get the party jumping and I like to think I've got songs that could get the party jumping as well. Red Rat was a big childhood inspiration of mine… I've never worked with a dancehall artist who was current before my generation of making music, so to pull out a banger with one is an honour and feels like a senior move.
Is TEN10 a concept album?
It's my first clinically precise album. TEN10—as in ten out of ten—has ten tracks, each track being a ten-ten representation of versatility, growth, lyricism, unique production and pushing boundaries creatively, as well as me recently touching the cusp of ten years in my career.
A lot's happened over the last decade…
I've been thinking about this a lot. It feels like yesterday! Think how many artists right now are thinking they're hot and new... Blud! Do you know how long ago I felt like that? I'm not old, but I definitely feel the weight of that sometimes. It doesn't make me think allow it—I'll know when that time comes.
You've had public tribulations and spoken out previously about troubles and suffering, but you've not let it become you in life or musically.
That's what you have to do. Music is fun. We all came in it for the right reason; spit a bar to your mate, him tell you it's cold, you might even get a couple bills for a show, age 15—you're happy now. Then you desire more. I genuinely love music! I feel like my battle has been in new artists who grew up watching me coming into the game, thinking I've had my time, but wanting to test me because my ability is still there. But the people that do that, let's see where you're at in 10 years. This is what British culture does; they want to see you have a run but then fall. But what are you gonna do when that time comes for you? Because it comes for everyone, no matter who you are or how much you're popping. But I'm the example of 'not having it'.
I remember some man saying they don't want to be 30 and spitting—but they all forgot.
I've never said that but I've always thought, one day, I'll want to grow up and I'm gonna grow up and they're gonna try and keep me as a kid. But I never wanted to be that guy. I grew up listening and watching Kris Kross and other childhood sensations that couldn't keep it going as an adult. I'm doing things on my terms and normally, anyone who's come out as young as me, you don't see them later on, doing the ting, so I'm happy about that.
What has been your career high?
There was undoubtedly a time when if you came near me on the mic, you're going to get why I got a shot at a career in music. I went from looking like the victim to people saying, "Stop, I can't take anymore!" [Laughs] That feeling was the same as a chart position.
So would you still describe yourself as an MC today? While that element is present in certain tracks, it's not—and never has been—all you are.
I am Chip, a musician from LDN—formerly known as Chipmunk—and that is me. If someone called me an MC, I wouldn't be offended because I'm definitely a mic controller. If you pass me the mic, I'm controlling it, and that's the art of emceeing a lot of people have forgotten. The era I came from, you had to be really good before you could even be seen. The internet has taken that away—I'm one of the last youth from that era still doing things that clipped that pirate radio era. Original '90s baby MC still going.
So how do you still challenge yourself as an artist?
Try different beats, hit different notes, find different pockets, say things that haven't already been said or say it differently. Melodies... Someone thinks you can't spit on something, try it.
What does grime need to do to be in the conversation with UK drill and Afrobeats?
Afrobeats makes you dance and people like to dance, drill thrives off negativity and negativity sells, so make people dance or create negative controversy and drop a banger? I dunno, you tell me? But I don't think it needs to be in the same conversation. This is England doing it again, comparing the established with the new. The bundle packing of music created by ethnic minorities needs to chill, man.
You've featured on a host of tracks recently, too. The "Jumpy" remix is doing bits.
I'm consistently eating up the features—Ambush, Lotto Boyzz, SL, Skrapz, B Young… If you want a hot verse on a remix, you go to Chip! [Laughs]