The concept of the clash is one of grime’s central pillars, turning the competitive nature of MCs into something gladiatorial. As a result, it runs in the DNA of UK rap – sure, it might get a little quiet from time to time, but those age-old beefs and grudges are just waiting to explode.
Last night – October 7th – Chip’s long-held issues with Stormzy finally erupted. Placing two tracks online, he aired his grievances, tearing down Stormzy’s reputation and revealing that the Croydon rapper had pulled up to his house with a car full of goons, clearly intent on doing some serious damage.
The dual – or should that be duel? - releases lit up social media like a comet in the night sky, a supernova of rage and distilled anger that turned grievance into an artform. Of course, it helps that both tracks are exceptionally strong - ‘Flowers’ and ‘Killer MC’ highlight different aspects of the performer, and act both as a showcase for Chip’s strengths, and a resume of Stormzy’s weaknesses.
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Make no mistake: those weaknesses are there. A figure of national importance he may be, but Stormzy is a man like anyone else. Trouble is, he hasn’t been pushed that hard of late. 2020 opened with that Wiley clash, but despite the entertainment of following those three seismic rounds there was a feeling that the war hadn’t really lived up to its potential.
Wiley seemed to be jumping on Stormzy for clout, a new album lingering on the horizon. Stormzy – perhaps wisely – refused to meet the Bow godfather on his own terms, evading his blows by sitting on drill beats, framing the grime pioneer as a man out of time.
This time round, though, it feels slightly different. The sheer ferocious accuracy of Chip’s sends carry a weight that Wiley’s tracks – for all their artful bobbing and weaving – couldn’t muster. The revelation that Stormzy arrived at Chip’s door fully intent on delivering physical harm totally undermines the Croydon MC’s much publicised religiosity, and skewers both the art and persona of Big Mike.
And it is a persona. Like us all, Stormzy is made up of contradictions, and he projects this in his art – the album is called ‘Gang Signs & Prayer’ for a reason, after all.
As he’s risen, these contradictions have become ever more apparent; just look at the tracklisting for second album ‘Heavy Is The Head’, and the way he moves from an evocation of female empowerment straight into ‘Vossi Bop’, a song with a lyric that is literally about ejaculating in a girl’s face.
There’s a sense sometimes of being too big, of trying too many things, of being too many people at once. Perhaps that explains some of the reaction last night. A sense that Stormzy has had it a little easy seemed to erupt into an avalanche of support for his competitor – fans reeled at the revelations, and eagerly soaked up the pars, in a way we’ve scarcely seen from the audience of an artist who has essentially become a national institution.
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From Chip’s side, he has nothing to lose. Lacking the convoluted back story of Wiley and without the commercial success of some of his peers, he’s got nothing to lose, and that’s probably why he’s so dangerous to his South London foe.
Equally, none of this is fake. This beef goes back a long way; all the way to ‘Waze’, and Stormzy reading more into those lyrics than he should’ve. All the way to the Croydon MC’s guest spot on ‘I Dunno’, and his barbed Chip sends.
Of course, there are those who are immediately crying foul, and saying it’s a stunt. Chip has a mixtape incoming, while Stormzy is going through a quiet spell. Equally, GRM Daily have just unveiled a documentary on YouTube, and the brand hosted both Chip’s sends. It could just be a means of promotion – but equally, there’s a lot more at stake than mere viewing figures.
Stormzy will undoubtedly hit back, it’s just a matter of time. For Big Mike, this is a chance to meld together the contradictions that make up his character, and hit back at the cynics who exploded on to social media in the aftermath of those releases last night. For Chip, this is an opportunity for an often underrated MC to finally get his due, by taking down the King himself and re-asserting himself as one of the most gifted natural MCs in the country.
They both have it all to win – the next few weeks will see who emerges with the crown.
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