Second album from the London rapper has its sights set on stateside success.
Mike Diver 2011-04-21
The title says it all: young London rapper Chipmunk is trying to move on, but is caught between the pop shine of his breakthrough I Am Chipmunk LP and a harder approach which could endear him to the US market. It’s a position that does him few immediate favours, but there are highs to be heard across this muddled mix of RnB smoothness and glossy hooks, naive bravado and boring braggadocio.
The featured talent is indicative, too, of sights set on crossing the Atlantic. Where said debut saw the likes of N-Dubz appear, Transition makes room for American artists Trey Songz, Keri Hilson, Chris Brown and Kalenna Harper. Fellow Brit Wretch 32 crops up, but his grime delivery is a few parental advisory stickers away from the tweenie-friendly raps of Dappy and company.
Whether the US takes to Chipmunk as they have home-grown talents like Lil Wayne – his nasally flow is not so different to our man here’s – remains to be seen. But numbers like the aspirations-themed Take Off and the soulful undercurrents of In the Air make it easy to imagine the Tottenham boy transferring domestic success with some ease. Largely it’s the presence of the guests that makes a track memorable – Hilson’s in great voice, and Diddy – Dirty Money singer Harper provides soft counter vocals to Chipmunk’s propulsive rhymes on the slippery White Lies. Trey Songz is a better straight singer than Brown, who accompanies the rapper on UK number two single Champion, and so Take Off comes across as a fine collaborative cut with catchy, clattering beats.
The 20-year-old lets himself down lyrically on occasions, though. While tales of rising through the grime ranks the right way are fine fare for impressionable listeners, tired clichés of flashing material possessions and getting with any girl around are depressingly present and correct. It’s mostly forgivable – he’s young, having the time of his life. But when he claims, on Flying High, that "All the girls like me / Including the dikies", one has to stop a moment, after swallowing a little sick back down, and wonder just how misguidedly inflated he’ll let his on-record ego become.
Despite such erroneous lyrics, Transition is far from a disaster. It’s got its share of missteps, but one leaves the experience feeling there’s more to come from Chipmunk; that despite his diminutive moniker he could yet become a huge star on the global stage. Lil Wayne didn’t make a significant mark in the UK until Lollipop, from Tha Carter III, with single and album going top 30 here. So both time and money (as he delights in telling us) are firmly on this still-rising artist’s side.