A decade after Chip’s (then Chipmunk) arrival on the scene as winner of Best Newcomer at the 2008 MOBO awards, Ten10 is an album on which the rapper, still only 27, uses all ten years of his experience and knowledge to deliver a super-concise album of ten razor sharp tracks. On his fourth Fire in the Booth a few days prior to album’s release he rapped, with a smile on his face – “Is he Grime, is he pop, bashment, hip hop or garage/ the debate goes on but it’s apparent he a savage”, the reason for his smirk is evident – this album provides no answer to the first bar, but certainly confirms the second.
The opener, ‘Thoughts’, is the kind of pensive stream of consciousness that you might freestyle after smoking a couple; the difference being the level of elegance and wordplay that the Tottenham rapper delivers. One of the strongest openers we’ve heard this year, the track is equal parts non-specific diss track (to samey rappers and wannabe drillers alike) and how-to-live manual, filled with the wisdom that Chip has gained on his journey through the game. The D’Mile produced instrumental is wonderfully atmospheric with an Asiatic influence, and provides the perfect backdrop for Chip’s “weed and thoughts” bars, perhaps the best of which is “Stop racing everybody else and start racing with yourself then/ even when you lose you kinda win”.
Chip’s effort differs from many of this year’s Grime and UK rap albums in a number of ways, one of which is his extensive use of features. However, these are all wisely chosen, helping the MC to traverse almost the entire range of current UK sounds by recruiting masters of the sound vibe he is aiming for on each track. The combo of Chip, Frisco and JME on ‘Right Now’ is probably the least unusual, but unsurprisingly makes for a heavyweight Grime riddim, particularly with the staccato-snare-filled Sevaq beat. However, guest spots from Kranium, Sampha and Red Rat are slightly more unexpected, and help the album to transcend any one sound or genre.
On “CRB Check” Chip conforms to the sound of 2018 so far, calling in the Afroswing king Not3s for a feel-good banger. The Diztortion instrumental uses the marimba pattern that has been all over the airwaves this last year as Not3s opens the track with the hook, which begins – “I’ve got to protect my heart”. Chip continues the ‘sensitive boy’ performance throughout his verses, with lines like “heart on my sleeve but it’s hidden in my tats”. It’s a side of the two artists that it’s nice to see, although lyrics like “Zubby and a Maggy havin’ an epiphany/ I’ll get rid of her, nah she ain’t getting rid of me” show that the masculine bravado is never too far away.
If struggling with promiscuous girls is one part of Chip’s love life, this album highlights that it’s certainly not the only part, with ‘I.F.W.U’, ‘Take The Lead’, ‘My Girl’ and ‘Human’ all detailing romantic encounters, some more explicit with others. This shouldn’t be surprising, as all of these tracks could be categorised as either dancehall, bashment or afrobeat, which all demand different content from a traditional Grime or hip-hop track. All of them are slightly different in both style and content, whether it’s a laid back, Craig David sampling love song about a girl you really fuck with (I.F.W.U) or the more lust-infused lyrics of a dancehall club banger (Take The Lead). The standout though has to be My Girl, on which Chip calls in the assistance of Jamaican stalwart Red Rat. Filled with plenty cries of Red Rat’s signature catch phrase, “Ohh Nooo!”, the Fanatix beat has a Latin feel, particularly when the trumpets come in, but the lyricism is pure Jamaican Dancehall. On the hook Chip affects a patois delivery as he rhymes “you don’t love me an me nuh love you/ fun we a deal wid, gyal come thru”, the rest of the track is fittingly jubilant and Red Rat’s verse is typically outrageous, “Mek sure you can bubble and wine pon di dick/ no struggle when you climb pon di dick” is just one highlight.
Between the dancehall and afrobeat, which requires Chip to at least partly sing most of his lyrics, many of the highlights come when he is rapping; where his content can be more brazen and more gripping he seems to be most at ease. The fifth track, ‘Darth Vader’, breaks up the Jamaican journey with some of this lyricism and wordplay – “Get whipped/ get murked/ man’s A-Class” (jheez!) – but the pinnacles come at the start and the end, with the final track, ‘Good Morning Britain’, marking a return to hard-hitting, knowledge-filled tracks grounded in day-to-day reality.
The track is a true masterpiece; another slow, reflective number (this time produced by Parker and mainly consisting of plucked guitar in a minor key) in which every lyric appears to be meticulously thought out including “Fuck Piers Morgan” – a sentiment we can all get behind anyway but that is explained in the following bars. They describe a life where “your family’s in the ends and your manors in beef/ Look on any road can be the wrong place wrong time”. Each lyric adds a layer to the final picture of life on London’s streets, creating a collage of the violence and angst that exists in the capital right now. It’s difficult to pick out any one lyric when the combination is so effective, but the one that sticks out in my mind is “Sometimes wanna be a father then I don’t/ cah when I look around it’s like humanity a ghost”, a chilling testimony about how mad it really is out there sometimes. The track, whilst not the most uplifting, feels hugely important. With politicians so quick to blame music for perpetuating and even causing the violence, it’s great to hear such a prominent voice on the scene address it so bluntly; and to hear calls for unity like “my daddy always told me that’s your brother if he’s black/ say it loud, man’s black and I’m proud”.
The album feels like it comes to a close very quickly, wrapping up in under 35 minutes, but at the same time you certainly feel like you’ve got an albums worth of content. The material and wordplay on display on tracks like Darth Vader and Good Morning Britain demand multiple listens to fully digest, whilst bangers like Human and CRB Check will be on repeat purely for the vibes. A decade into the game, this album may not re-establish Chip as the “Grime Scene Saviour”, but it certainly cements his status as one of the most talented and diverse artists about.
Standouts – Good Morning Britain, My Girl