Chipmunk: On pretty girls, US recognition and the N-Dubz ‘split’…

Eager fans filled the rooftop of the Southbank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall this summer to watch platinum selling rapper Chipmunk throw an intimate gig to promote huge sports brands Adidas Originals and Footlocker. I popped over with fellow Flavour Magazine writer, Maz Halima, to catch up with the UK chart-topper just moments before he hit the stage…

The songwriter, whose real name is Jamaal Fyffe, grew up in North London and performed the sponsored set in front of a mass of competition winners. Honoured to have been chosen by the brands and adored by avid fans, he said ‘They picked me to be the face of their new campaign to help appeal to kids like me.’ The 20 year old rocketed to fame when he was featured on Tim Westwood’s 1Xtra show, and is known for his hits ‘Oopsy Diasy’, which was included on his debut album ‘I Am Chipmunk’, and more recently ‘Champion’ which is on his latest album ‘Transition’ and features US RnB singer Chris Brown.

In 2008 he received a MOBO for Best Newcomer and won Best Hip-Hop Act at the 2009 MOBOs, ahead of US megastars such as Jay-Z, Kanye West and Eminem. This year the pint-sized star has two nominations for ‘Best UK Act’ and ‘Best Video’ for ‘Champion’, and he is about to embark on a tour with veteran ‘Sweat’ rapper Snoop Dogg. With no signs of slowing down, the impressively confident and laid back artist gave us the lowdown…

M: A lot has happened in your career over the last four years. What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Honestly, working with Chris Brown. When I started music, he was already THAT guy. I would say that working with Chris was when I thought ‘Rah, this was what I dreamed of and its reality now.’

C: Were you star struck when you met him?

Nah! I never get star struck. I think with artists you don’t get star struck because you are all under the umbrella of music. He [Chris Brown] looked at me like ‘wow this guy is a sick writer’ and I looked at him like ’you’re some alien, the way you’re singing and dancing, it’s a lot!’

M: How have you been received in America? Do they get your music?

I haven’t put out any music in America you know. Everything I have done with American artists has been for my fans here who are also fans of Chris Brown and Trey Songz. There is a high respect for me a British rapper that they can actually understand! But swag wise, I’m just like them… we’re into the same things.

C: Have you got any plans to release any material in the US?

I got plans to make a name in the US, but everyone forgets that you can’t skip stages; unless you don’t mind having a song that is bigger than you, you have to start from the bottom. I don’t want have a big song but I can still go to the mall, you know. I want to do it properly.

C: So you want to be mobbed?!

[Laughs] It’s not that I want to be mobbed, but I never want to have a song where people are like ‘who are you..? Oh, you’re him!’ I want to do it from the ground up and gain the respect. Tinie [Tempah] is doing well but I don’t know another UK MC that has had the love simultaneously from so many different artists at once.

C: I interviewed Pete ‘Parker’ Ighile, who co-produced ‘Oopsy Daisy’, in July. What was it like working with him?

It’s like cooking a Sunday dinner with your friend; I’ve been working with Parker since I was 14. Me and Parker go way back, he’s doing his thing now and I’m doing mine, but we stay in touch.

M: Who are you feeling on the UK scene right now?

As a fan, I think the best rapper word for word, forget about making hits, is Wretch 32. He’s a sick rapper. I think the best all-rounder in terms of singing, delivery and character would be Dappy. I think N-Dubz splitting up has allowed him to gain the credibility that he has been dying for.  It’s amazing man. I like Dappy.

C: Hmm, i heard Tulisa on the radio recently saying they were just ‘on a break’..
M: Yeah, i didn’t know they had officially split up, but I guess you know them so you would know…?

Yeah, I know them well… [silence]

C: Ok, so you’re dominating the music scene at the moment but what about television, any plans for your own reality show like N-Dubz?

Nah, my music is for the public, I try and keep my personal life personal. I think that’s when people start falling off when they do them sort of things. I’m not really on that.

M: You’ve recorded a lot international collaborations, are there any more we can expect?

There are some certified ones that are going to happen, but the ones that I want to make happen are with Lil’ Wayne and Drake. Those are the two collaborations that I want.

C: Which ones have been certified?! Come on, give us an exclusive…

I can’t tell you! [Laughs]

C: [Laughs] Ok, so what else is coming up for Chipmunk?

I’ve got my new free mix tape coming out soon. It’s just me emceeing with my peers. Wretch 32 is on there, so are Tinie Tempah and Sneakbo. Then I’m going to start working on my third album.

M: What direction are you taking your next album in? Will you be jumping onto the Bassline like many other artists are doing at the moment?

I’m not even about to jump on the bassline! I like Ms Dynamite’s ‘Neva Soft’, but to me that sounds more like bashment anyway, it’s got a Caribbean flavour to it. That Ms Dynamite tune is my favourite song right now… it’s crazy! If something like that comes up, I’m in. I am going to try and branch out and do different stuff as well.

Chipmunk launches the Adidas Hard Court Hi sneaker exclusive to Foot Locker stores now priced at £69.99, head to www.footlocker.eu for more detailsp

Check out our cheeky quick fire questions round with Chipmunk at Flavour Magazine.

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  1. […] Also check out my interview with Pete’s good friend Chipmunk here. […]



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