Chip

Lately, Chip has recaptured a feeling he had in 2007. As he describes it: “I know my abilities. I can see everything. I’m excited, and I’m encouraged.” The first time around, at the age of 16, that feeling led to the release of his third (and most successful) mixtape, League of my Own. A decade on, the Tottenham-born MC — real name Jahmaal Fyfe — has walked a long and winding path to find his way back to that same energy and passion. “I lost it for a while,” he says, “between all the different transitions I made through music, in terms of learning about different sounds, different genres. But now, I’ve got that excitement again. I’m ready.” Just as he did then, Chip is channelling that determination into a no-holds-barred independent release, with his third studio album League of my Own II.

 

Chip has been dropping mixtapes since 2005, when he was a teenager clashing other MCs at his local youth club under the name Chipmunk. He had a street hit with “Who Are You?”, and was just 16 in 2007 when Wiley brought him onto Tim Westwood’s BBC Radio 1Xtra show for a freestyle that would land him in grime’s history books. He went on to make a mark on the UK Singles chart with an independent track (‘Chip Diddy Chip’), before releasing his debut album I Am Chipmunk on Columbia in October 2009 at 18.

 

In 2012, Chip’s talents went global when rapper T.I. reached out and offered him a deal with his label, Grand Hustle. What followed was a move to Atlanta and a second album, Transition, including the dancehall cut ‘Every Gyal’ with Mavado and the Chris Brown-featuring ‘Champion.’ “That album positioned me as a young adult,” Chip reflects, “and it definitely was part of my process for where I’m at today. Now I can feel acceptance for all the different types of music I can bring. I’m a versatile musician as much as an MC, and now it’s time for me to exercise that and flourish.”

 

Achieving so much so young was a double-edged sword for Chip. He established a global audience and worked with superstars before he hit adulthood, and yet there came a point in the US when he realised he wanted to feel the hunger of the independent British scene again. “Not many people get to experience such a journey,” he says. In 2013, he “​woke up and realised that there was so much more to do back home,” leaving the States behind.

 

It wasn’t long before he made his mark in the fray once again, with a landmark Fire in the Booth freestyle that began a series of warring freestyles and diss tracks between MCs that caused a sensation around the UK, even making national news. On searing cuts like “Pepper Riddim” and “Dickhead,” Chip wielded a lyrical talent sharpened by years on the mic, reminding audiences old and new that “Chip can’t run out of bars.”

 

“When I’m in that mode, I’m not the one who taps out,” he says now. “If you go back and you watch legendary grime sets from over a decade ago, I can hold my own on the microphone. So it was refreshing to be able to show that to a new audience in a way that they digested, on the internet. I’m professional at this. I’m seasoned at this. You’re not gonna come near me and have an easy ride.”

 

It was both that renewed passion for releasing music direct to his fans, and that raw grime energy that inspired Chip to begin working on his third album, six years after the last. And yet, the album taps into far more than his grime credentials. It’s also deeply indebted to his Jamaican heritage, channeling the reggae of his youth and the irresistable sway of dancehall. “​You see me in a dancehall party, you’d probably think, When did you get here from Jamaica? I like to dance,” Chip says. As well as production from Canadian beatmaker Tre Mission, he recruited Popcaan favourites Fanatix to bring that Jamaican rhythm to the record. But more important than anything else was keeping this project — Chip’s first

independently released studio album — a family affair, using in-house producers he’s worked with for a decade. He only worked on it with “people that I know genuinely believe in me. That’s the best feeling. It was a movement.” The result is Chip’s most ambitious and accomplished release to date, ranging from the rapidfire spitting of “34 Shots” to the sinister, slow-rolling bass of “Amazing Minds.”

 

It was also important to Chip that the features were all British. League of my Own II is “a good, broad representation of everything I see and enjoy happening in England.” That includes both scene stalwarts like Wiley, Giggs, and Donae’O, and newer singers like Miraa May and Ella Mai. There’s also the brooding hip-hop joint “Honestly” with 67, and the kicked-back “About Time” with rising afrobeats star Kojo Funds (and backing vocals from Ed Sheeran). The strong relationships on this record are nowhere more evident than on the cinematic posse cut “Scene,” where ​Chip trades bars with Wiley, Jammer, and D Double E over a breakneck beat. “I had to have Wiley on this album,” says Chip. “If I’m in 2007 mode,

it just makes sense.”

 

Elsewhere, the family vibe is more literal, as Chip’s dad provides the intro on the ​soulful, introspective album closer “Family.” “I love them all, but that’s probably the most personal track,” says Chip. “After everything I’ve been through in life, if I didn’t have a song for my family, I shouldn’t be doing music. They’re the people that have helped me through.”

 

League of my Own II is the culmination of a totally unique journey, and for one of the UK’s most fearsome MCs, a return to his DIY roots. “The only way I know is from the ground up. When I made England look at me the first time, I done it on my own — if I’m feeling like I want to make you look again, I don’t need to ask anyone to do that.” After charting independently, signing to major labels, and traveling the world all before the age of 26, what is he hoping to achieve with his latest record? “I haven’t done an album in six years, and now I’ve got the feeling again, so it’s just been amazing to me already. To breathe another day and have the chance to give music to people — that’s success to me.

Agent
Mike Malak
Assisted by: Rebecca Bates rebecca@codaagency.com