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Music Review

Chipmunk: 'I Am Chipmunk'

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Chipmunk: 'I Am Chipmunk'
Released on Monday, Oct 12 2009

Not many people can claim to have beaten Eminem and Kanye West to a hip-hop gong. However, what makes Chipmunk's recent MOBOs success even more remarkable is that, just one month before the ceremony, he was picking up his A-Level results. He may not have the gangsta rap swagger or parent-scaring cred of his American counterparts, but the youngster's cheeky, chipper flow gives him a crossover appeal which is about to bag him a No.1 single. However, as this debut disc proves, Chipmunk's still got a way to go if he wants to become an artist of lasting significance.

His singles, the perky, ska-infused 'Diamond Rings', infectious No.1-to-be 'Oopsy Daisy' and braggy, hip-poppy 'Chip Diddy Chip', showcased a rapper unafraid of using a radio-friendly melody to accompany his rhymes. Hip-hop and grime purists may raise eyebrows at the polished production and corny piano hooks that I Am Chipmunk often features, but these lighter moments are where the rapper really shines. Despite those three A-Levels, his way with words is still fairly rudimentary ("I wave to my haters, see you at the top, I'm the best in the biz... everybody say my name now, Chip Diddy Chip"), and it's only because Chip's so likable that he gets away with it.

Unfortunately, at times he's more ambitious and the album lurches into territory less suitable for his innocent rapping. 'Look For Me' is the worst sort of Akon-style Europop/hip-hop crossover track. Grimey opener 'Saviour' is an attempt to match Kanye West in the self-promotion stakes that falls flat because Chipmunk's accomplishments - doing well at school and releasing some mixtapes - don't yet stand up to his peers. Then there's 'Role Model', on which he complains about his new-found fame ("See the spotlight made me a target... they don't know what it's like going to college everyday in my hood, when I know men are after me") and it's hard to take him seriously. Whenever Chipmunk plays the hard-man, he sounds more cute than edgy - you almost feel tempted to offer him a consolation cuddle.

Despite these youthful indiscretions, I Am Chipmunk is generally an enjoyable listen and it's refreshingly unconcerned with grimey street cred. That said, 'Man Dem' proves Chipmunk can still 'go old-school', as he exchanges super-fast rhymes with Tinchy Stryder over imposing beats and robotic sound effects. When he gets confessional on 'Dear Family' or goes soppy on 'Sometimes', he sounds like a hip-hop Westlife, lacking the subtlety in his lyrics to pull off these personal, emotional tales. However, when he sticks to what he does best - celebratory pop and strutting, commercial hip-hop - Chipmunk shows himself to be an artist of some potential.

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