Chipmunk, Royal Opera House, London
Thursday 10 September 2009
Despite the notoriety associated with grime music, Chipmunk will always be the rapper you'd happily bring home to mum. It's a pity the Royal Opera House didn't see it that way. Perhaps the excessive security measures were rolled out for the benefit of Wiley, who as tardy and calamitous as he was during his swift set, hardly lived up to the hazards one suspects were bashed out in capital letters on the risk assessment (unless being late, a touch explicit and forgetting your words is considered a threat nowadays). While grime music may still be regarded as part of an urban social class that's better appreciated from a distance – by those who usually frequent Covent Garden for the likes of Linda di Chamounix – the genre's climb to the top of the charts has helped it to earn a more PG status.
Chipmunk's inclusion in Time Out's Deloitte Ignite festival means he's only on stage for 15 minutes, but in that time we learn that he's an adorably charming teenager with big dreams, great songs, and incredibly good manners. He's only got a DJ for backing and the sound's not great, but as the 18-year-old strolls up and down the small stage and dishes out the lyrics of "Who are You?", it's evident he's studied the casual charm and swagger of Jay-Z. It's not long before the audience is taken in by his anecdotal journey of writing rhymes in maths class to landing a top 10 single and a deal with Sony.
Next up is "Beast", a darkly hypnotic song he wrote after winning the Mobo for Best Newcomer last year. It's preceded by an explanation of the song's meaning, which was more about his state of mind after earning the gong "And not because I worship the Devil, I worship God," he grins. Afterwards, he tells a zealous fan that he "loves them too... for the third time!" and proceeds to "Chip-Diddy-Chip", first served up a capella and then accompanied with that brilliant, crashing bassline.
Chipmunk is a record label's dream, and along with fellow post-grimers N-Dubz, Tinchy Stryder and Ironik, he's capable of infecting those who listen to him with youthful abandon. It's a tactic Dizzee Rascal has employed to great effect since moving on from the scare-mongering reverbs of "Fix Up, Look Sharp", to the happy-go-funky beats of "Dance Wiv Me". Chipmunk's only setback is that while it might be all well and good embracing commerciality, he'll need to go beyond the stage pacing, hand-shaking and minor two-stepping to last beyond the summer of 2009. But he's ensured it's been a great one, not least thanks to tonight's finale, "Diamond Rings", the catchy body-rocker that went to number six and features the vocals of Emeli Sande, who opened tonight's festival and jumps onto the stage to finish off the song with him. If he had an extra 30 minutes, perhaps Chipmunk could have taken his entertainment level up a notch, but in a short set, he's shown that his quest for the stars hasn't been in vain; and right now, he's shining.
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