Chipmunk looks likely to score his second number one single this weekend with 'Champion' featuring Chris Brown, and the London MC spoke to TaleTela about the controversy surrounding the single, as well as his new album.
The 20-year-old London-native was more than happy to talk to us about his latest efforts, and actually he spoke about so much including, what his plans are for Valentine's Day, his favourite hobbies as well as his love for Rihanna, but we'll have to save that for a second installment.
Check out our exclusive interview with Chipmunk and find out why his top single 'Champion' was initially rejected by radio DJs...
Ok talk to me about your new album..
My new album is called 'Transition', it kinda represents the growth in me as a person since my last album, so the sound has matured as well as I have and that’s the main thing for me with the record I just wanted the sound, the sound and the feel of the album to feel… I feel like a granddad but you know, just more mature than my first album, you know life’s changed.
Who have you got featuring on 'Transition' then?
First single is ‘Champion’ featuring Chris Brown, the warm up track was 'Flying High' and their really enticing everyone to hear what’s on the rest of the album, which features Keri Hilson, Trey Songz, Malvado, Wretch 32 and Diddy Dirty Money. It should be interesting.
So how is it working with the US stars?
It’s cool man, they did their homework about me, you know, coming through the underground, breaking through to the mainstream, they had a good understanding of what had to be done here in the UK for me to get to that point when they would hear me and I’d be at that stratosphere, that level where it feels natural for them to work with me. It’s been proper interesting.
What was the studio time like?
It’s sick man, it’s like, studio for me is … I tell you I drink and chill but it gets me that vibe and you’re just free, it’s like freedom. In the studio it’s just like there’s no telling of what’s gonna come out that day and you know, especially with the hype that acts that you see and hear have absolutely no input on how their songs sound. I’m not that artist because I'm writing music and creating with my producer, Harmony. We managed to create an album that even if you’re not into that sound of music, you’ll appreciate for what it is and what it’s gonna stand for in the UK in 10 years to come, it’s like the first UK album to actually really bridge the gap between the UK and US artists.
How did the collaborations with those artists come about? The UK acts we get, but some of these names are quite big! Chris Brown, Keri Hilson, Trey Songz...
I had no features on my album and I was 60% through it and all sounding sick but Semtex said to me ‘why don’t you go and get Justin Timberlake?’ and I was like ‘ha, yeah alright Semtex!’ but when I thought about it there was a lot of songs that suited these artists, it’s their type and sound of music, it’s their type of swag, that confidence, that flair and it’s something I’ve always had in me.
But on your second album, that's pretty big feat surely?
I don’t think it’s been done on someone’s second album before, you know having events like that for a country, you know, 'Champion' with Chris Brown, the amount of love the song gets alone, you know from people who might not be Chipmunk fans, might not be Chris Brown fans, the song, it’s amazing I feel it’s now getting to the point that if you see me on stage with Chris it feels normal. If I say now on my third album I want Lil’ Wayne, Kanye, Eminem, people won’t look at me and be like “are you mad?” This is an album I’m seeing as a bridge from here to the US but at the same time, in having these features, it’s for me to make the best album I possibly can for my fans here in the UK, cos they’re still fans of other people from other countries, so it’s exciting for them to see it happen.
When we heard these US names, I thought 'God he’s gonna go and smash the US and forget about his UK fans' but really it’s about bringing them here?
That’s what it is for me, I mean I get a lot of love from the artists out in America even before I had my eyes set on working with them. I’m just taking it all in so obviously at the time, when I came out commercially, that’s what had to be done from a young black artist in the UK to even get a look in on the radio but now I’ve got my foot in the radio door and all the rappers and MCs respect me as an MC and that’s what got me noticed in the first place.
How do you go about picking your featured artists then?
I don’t think there’s someone who could have sung 'Champion' the way Chris did. I wouldn’t change whoever was on 'Champion', dead or alive, for anyone except for Chris Brown. The song that Trey Songz is on my album is specifically at the target audience that people would say Trey Songz appeals to so I wouldn’t change him being on that song, when it comes to my third album, if I wanna go in lyrics-wise and I want someone to go in with, they might not be someone, whoever I decide to that song with, it’s gonna be that person that suits that song.
It sounds like you’ve got a lot of input in the way your music gets put together. Champion with Chris Brown, it’s quite controversial choosing him, especially in the UK, I don’t really know if he’s allowed to perform here at the minute....
It was! When some people heard I had a song with Chris Brown they were like “Phsss please, I bet that’s some Deuces remix or something ” or those DJs that you were saying that were playing nothing to do with Chris Brown, I was like “Hold on! Whose song is it?' But then I was like 'You know what? What I’m doing now has gotta be from the soul otherwise what’s the point? I know how to make a song that suits the radio and I can say ‘this is gonna be a top three’ I don’t want to do that anymore, it’s boring, I actually got bored of it, in that short space of time. It’s gotta be meaningful, it’s gotta be from the heart, and I feel, with 'Champion', especially the lyrics of the song and what I’m singing and what Chris’s singing, on behalf of Chris, everyone’s been waiting for him to hear him say what he said on my song, my thing was like 'Why do you wanna do it on my song?' But fair enough, he was like ‘Nah man, when something hits you, it hits you, and 'Champion' hit him. We were speaking at the video and he was like ‘Nah man, this one hit me, hit me where it hurts kinda ‘hit me’. Don’t expect people to be on your side, don’t expect people to help you, it’s down to us, I was born a champion. That’s the feeling I wanted everyone to get from the song.
Do you think the reception to 'Champion' has changed?
Off my fan base and his fan base, you put this shit on the internet, that the hurricane that it was gonna cause that whoever didn’t embrace the song, they would have looked out of touch with what’s going on. In everyone supporting the track, it kinda shows that as a country, whether it took me or not, as a country we’re standing for forgiveness and that’s bigger than any chart position, I couldn’t care less about it.
Have you got any other collaborations, besides the ones on your album? Are you gonna be featuring on anyone else’s album, cos I heard you’re doing that thing with Skepta?
Naturally, I would like to think I’m gonna be on all of Wretch’s albums, he’s gonna be on all of mine! Wretch 32, obviously track blew up massive for him, Amen, Praise God, hallelujah, Walahi, whatever religion you are, it’s a beautiful thing. Flipping, Skepta’s album, Big, that song we’ve got on his album is touching a lot of people as well. That’s what we’re trying to make now, music to touch the people and to remind them please don’t forget we’re MC’s I think the general public naturally gravitate to the new things so the second you’re not new, it’s like, that that they just wanna leave you alone but you’re not new anymore so everything about you has to be your music.
A lot of collaborations come about through record labels. Listening to you, yours come about through conversations, hanging out?
Conversations and, the one thing I would say with the American artists is that good music speaks volumes, for instance when Chris Brown heard 'Champion', he knew who I was, he’d heard 'Flying High' and he liked it but it was the song that connected with him. When Keri heard 'White Lies', which now has Diddy Dirty Money on it, she loved it so much she was like ‘hey man' and she remembered me from the MOBOs and she was there that time when I shut it down and then when she heard the other song that she's on now, she was like 'Oh my god, I wanna be on this one!'