Google “44108” and the results will include links to King Chip’s new mixtape and a map of Cleveland, Ohio, which the rapper formerly known as Chip the Ripper proudly represents. As has largely been the case with the Midwest over the years, Ohio is a perennial underdog – it isn’t the west, the east coast or the south. Rappers from the Buckeye State, however, have released some of the better hip-hop this year, and Chip is the latest in a succession that includes legendary Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony (the co-headliners at this year’s Rock the Bells Festival), Maybach Music Group’s Stalley and frequent Kanye West collaborator Kid Cudi, the latter appearing on one of the highlights of 44108, which has turned out to be a very impressive independent mixtape easily rivaling some of this year’s major label full-length albums.
A quick scan of guests and production credits on 44108 instantly impresses with a few surprises – Scarface, MJG and Ray Cash of “Bumpin’ My Music” fame among them – and production from the likes of Taylor Gang’s beatsmith Cardo, Kid Cudi’s producers WZRD and trap beat stalwart Lex Luger. Lesser known names such as Rami and Big Duke also contributed beats to the 19-track offering. Sonically, each producer brings something different to the table, yet there is cohesion throughout, as the instrumentals are generally of the subdued, blunted variety that Chip gravitates toward.
As far as the raps are concerned, Chip isn’t an off-the-charts lyricist or hashtag rapper. He doesn’t rap double-time but combines strong cadence with street-level vernacular and frequent reminders to unknown “b***h a** n****z” to show respect. Much like Freddie Gibbs, a fellow Midwesterner, Chip plays to his own strengths, which are haunting street tales via wordplay that is closer to that of Southern rappers than it is to Doe or Die and Twista. He’s in this form on the Cardo-produced “7 am on St. Clair” and “BLK on BLK.”
WIth a powerful Scarface verse leading the way on “If I Die Today” coupled with a Jamaican patois-laden hook, Chip and MJG do justice to the Trakksounds-produced song. The next cut is a 8 minute 50 second track split into two songs: the head-nodder “Stand Up King” and the soulful, mellow “Another You.” Chip’s momentum keeps clicking as “Vortex,” featuring Pusha T and Kid Cudi, produced by WZRD, serves up a brooding, dark vibe about the fairer sex complete with Cudi’s signature crooning.
There are many more moments that make 44108 a very enjoyable, consistent listen from a rapper who is clearly in full control of his sound. It’s hood music at its finest without attempts to cross over, yet Chip still brings in rappers and producers who are either mainstream or associated with mainstream artists. It’s no surprise King Chip is still independent yet has inked a deal with Creative Artists Agency. He’s not quite a superstar, but many peers see him as having the potential to carry the Midwest hip-hop torch.