Legendary, veteran UK rapper Chip has released his whopping 19th project, a mixtape titled 'Snakes & Ladders'. Chip's beef with Stormzy has put him back in the spotlight recently, so it's a perfect time to release this album. Chip is a legend in the UK scene - but his discography isn't the most consistent, but the singles are good so there's hope for me going into this. But, would he put UK on the front foot in the rap scene at the beginning of 2021?
The production is strong overall, some really great beats, like 'Grown Flex' which as this great sample of 'Heartbroken' by T2, a garage type beat with really classic vibes with the new modern influence too. Lyrically uninteresting and corny at times from Chip and Bugzy Malone's verse was standard, it weren’t nothing special as they talk about a girl who they like and want to hold down – asking if they feel the same. It's my least favourite so far, it’s decent but carried by the sample to be honest. But with 21 songs there’s gonna be some forgettable ones,, like on 'Lumidee' which has this lowkey flute based beat which set’s a nice tone but doesn’t stand out, as the track focuses on a girl Chip likes and what about her he likes. Young Adz was nothing crazy but an enjoyable hook, and Young M.A was decent, overall the song’s fine, not one of my favourites but not the worst. The instrumentals are trap heavy beats, some drill, some dark, some summery and some even dancehall – very varied, as on 'See Through' which is a strong dancehall beat with a whiny synth line as Chip bangs some braggadocios lines on this track reflecting on the girls they get and the holiday’s they can take. Kida Kudz is in his lane, he just sounds so good on the ears and Chip’s verses are cold, the hooks catchy, the beats dancy – it's a great track. The beats suit Chip’s style on all the songs (whether I like the style or not).
Chip has bars, they’re slick and witty at times, shown on songs like 'Allow It', "Keep your opinions on me, thanks // 'Cah I can't put those in the bank (Nope) // Like trust me, I know about taking shots (Mmm) // But they didn't kill me, it was blanks (Brrrr) // And fuck all the threats on Twitter, my n**** // 'Cah tweeting is what birds do // Social distance from dem man dere, is it COVID or is it bird flu?", where he also shows great braggadocio, "Talk about a Chip-v-Chipmunk // If you wanna chat 'bout who might be colder than me (Mm)", talking about how he hasn't fallen off and how he’s still as good as ever. It has this dark trap beat, really deep and aggressive and picked up as it went on, the second verse is fierce. He comes with the wordplay at times as well, like on 'Daily Duppy', "About a penny for my thoughts, I need M's for these bars // 'Cause this game would be knackered without my two pence", as we get this simple but banging beat, the flute line in the beat really attractive – then a beat switch to a darker guitar based beat, as the first half is spent with Chip talking about being the best rapper, his numerous beefs etc., and the second half is about issues with the UK including racism, and he reflects on his life now he’s at 30. The first half so fire, he was rapping like his life depended on it, the 2nd half good too but I prefer the first verse easily. He can even get pretty emotional with his lyricism, as on '0420 (R.I.P Black the Ripper)', "Got the message that my uncle died // Couple hours later, Ashley at my door knockin', opened up said "Black the Ripper died" // Good Friday just around the corner, this is not a vibe // I can't lie, I probably need a hug, but it's Corona times // The mandem's number three in the charts // Everyone congratulatin' but I'm numb as a rass", as this is a tribute song to deceased friend Black the Ripper. These haunting vocal samples and deep drums give a melancholy and hopeless feel on this introspective, emotional track. It was a nice tone to hear after last few tracks and he’s really spitting on it, a really good song. There’s a few bland moments lyrically or even corny, but it’s fair to say he’s a proper MC with the lyrics with a cold flow - but he does end up using some lazy flows on tracks. For his delivery, the Jamaican accent or normal voice go hard, the D-Block Europe type auto-tuned delivery is a real turn off.
Most the features on here are pretty good, the dancehall features especially are enjoyable, like Parker Ighile on 'Eskimo Dance' who gives us a really groovy hook over these really bouncy drums and keys, giving me one of my favourite beats. The track talks on flexing his jewellery and rapping ability and it's my favourite song so far, the hook’s so good, the beat too and Chip’s flow while simple is just so captivating. The verses from rappers and hooks from singers are strong, like Tiwa Savage on 'Top Shelf' as she provides great vocals and a catchy hook, and like the last track, it’s a chilled out summery vibe but this time the warm elements shine the brightest as Chip gives us classic love song lyrics talking on a girl who doesn’t want another waste man in her life and Chip is proclaiming he’s not that guy. It's a summer banger, a real nice vibe as I said, the feature great and Chip is fine on here. There’s a few misses, but there's bound to be with so many features, like Dirtbike LB on 'Own World', who didn't dd anything to the track, and the lyrics also made no sense, "I was trapped, I had a coke in a mountain, Everest", over this guitar and flute which collide well, but other than that I can’t say it’s my favourite beat. Chip has some heartfelt lyrics talking on his feelings of loneliness, work ethic and commitment to rap but it's an extremely uneventful, generic and bland track - no moment of enjoyment for me on this.
Content wise it’s as you’d expect from a Chip project, he talks on his various beefs and being the best MC around, shown from the get go on songs like 'No Goat' which has these quick paced synths, it's fairly lowkey overall with these vocal samples but it’s pretty atmospheric as he comes with hard and aggressive bars, "Men lie, women lie, so do numbers // But you can count on me to go in // Dem man, must be workin' with juju // I don't care where you charted, you're shit". Chip’s flow and confidence is on show perfectly, it really sets up the album in a way no other song on here could. His come up story is touched on a lot, although not in great detail, like 'Done Know' as Chip and Headie One talk on where they come from and their youth life, with Headie providing some slick wordplay, "Thirteen trying to steal for a living then I just started to rob like Holding (Suh)", and this confident delivery and freezing flow. It's got drill 808s with a really lighter feel in the layers above that, and it's a strong song, with a nice melody on the hook and both rappers spit high standard verses. The afroswing/dancehall tracks are all about girls as well which you could expect, as do other songs like 'Hersheys' where we get this pretty mediocre drill beat, as D-Block Europe give us a standard feature from the pair, it doesn’t ruin the track but it doesn’t exactly blow me away as Chip drops some bite your tongue, cheeky lyrics in there, "If I'm in the booth, yeah, I did that before Different bedroom, kitchen, staircase // Neighbours complainin', she bangin' the walls". The whole song is an auto-tuned, D-Block Europe type track , again not a standout but some nice melodies and it’s fine, I wouldn’t come back to it though. Other than a few diss tracks at Stormzy that’s the subject matter on here, it’s decent as content but not the most thrilling.
Other tracks to talk about includes 'Ignite', as JME, Dizzee Rascal and Chip all rap about their sick music and fire bars over this dark trap beat with a zany synth line and heavy drums. Chip comes with the hard bars, JME with the usual confidence and slick flow and Dizzee with the most energy and fun attitude. It's just 3 legendary UK rappers spitting fire over a fire sample (literally). '100K' introduces us with this booming, dark drill beat, as he comes with the typical flex and don’t mess with us song - but features MoStack who escorts himself into the song with the flow and charisma on point. Anything MoStack touches turn to gold, the chemistry is there to see and both do a fine job. 'Give Tanks' has all the elements of a summer beat with them warm feels turned cold, and a really strong piano based beat as Chip isn't too lyrically interesting as he proclaims he's thankful for making it through his rough childhood to where they are now, featuring Mavaodo who's afro style over this beat clashes well. It's a pretty standard track, it’s a decent enough but I can’t say I’d come back to it too often.
'Skeletons (Interlude)' has another relaxed vibey beat as he presents his bad past with treating women like objects more or less, telling this girl she wouldn’t want a guy like him. It has a nice beat, Chip’s harmonising isn’t too bad, and it’s only an interlude but I'm not too interested in the content and it’s an underwhelming track. 'No Reason' has this really nice beat, the distorted 808s act as a great bass and the garage influence is on display as Chip drops great braggadocio, "But there's levels to life, my G // My first time on a private jet was free, courtesies of Lethal B (Bro dat) // I might miss my flight, drunk Malibu nights, now my manager's texting me (Oh God)", talking about his wealth allowing him to go holiday wherever he wants. Aisa has them classic female garage vocals, and sound delightful, and it's really lowkey a banger with a simplistic hook but really resembles what makes UK music so catchy, it’s one of my favourites on here. 'Killer MC' is one of two diss tracks for Stormzy on here, but bar wise there's nothing too menacing, just some light jabs. The beat is as menacing as the bars should’ve been, it's really deep and evil feeling and as a song it doesn’t do much for me, as a diss track it’s weak - not really a key highlight for me.
'Party Ah Keep' has these glitchy synths to give us a misty feel, as Stylo G is enjoyable) and Haile raps with a sweet melodic flow. It's all about partying as they show off their vehicles and clothing, but again like the last few songs, it’s just OK, it’s fun but makes no lasting impression on me and I started getting a bit bored towards the end. 'Hot 97 (Outro)' begins with this victorious and in your face type beat, with catchy drums and a nice piano and some hard bars from Chip. It's like many tracks here about being the best rapper around – even after all these years, and it's a bit of a banger - still not the most entertaining - and a good song not more though. Finally, 'Flowers' starts with this booming beat, evil feel again and is hard hitting and yet another diss track at Stormzy, coming with meaner disses than 'Killer MC', "I thought it's black lives matter, what you sayin'? Mine don't? // "Let's catch him 'fore he touches mic", why? You know I'm cold // Ride today, march tomorrow, it's confusing // At this rate, it's like I'm black and he's black, but in a way darker place (Haha) // Fake arse activist, stop it, you're hardly 2Pac". This is much better than the first diss track on this album in my opinion and what you call a good diss track, as a song it’s fire too.
To conclude, the album grew on me after a couple listens, the majority of it is fire and just really smooth and enjoyable music. With 21 tracks there’s a few misses and unneeded tracks so it could’ve maybe been shortened but Chip demonstrates some versatility here, and in all areas he pulls it off except the melodic, lowkey, D-Block Europe type songs in my opinion. He’s one of the greatest to come out of the UK rap scene and it’s a good addition to a mixed discography so far, but the big issue is the 2nd half though, it’s so inconsistent after a great first half, some of the tracks in the back end should’ve been cut and we’d have a really strong album.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: No Goat, Allow It, See Through, Ignite, Done Know, 100K, Top Shelf, Eskimo Dance, No Reason, 0420 (R.I.P Black the Ripper), Hot 97 (Outro), Flowers, Daily Duppy
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: Own World
OVERALL RATING: Solid 7/10