fri 04/12/2020

Album: Dizzee Rascal - E3 AF | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Dizzee Rascal - E3 AF

Album: Dizzee Rascal - E3 AF

Man back in the corner

You can’t ever go all the way home again, and for years Dizzee Rascal didn’t want to.

You can’t ever go all the way home again, and for years Dizzee Rascal didn’t want to. His Mercury-winning debut Boy In Da Corner (2003) electrified with the shock of the new, its eccentric, genre-mashing sound topping juddering jungle bass with a voice which seemed barely to have broken, and jaggedly emotional raps describing dull, violence-haunted days in Bow, East London. When I interviewed him then, aged 18, he saw straight through the keeping-it-real shackles awaiting him. “The ones who go, ‘I’m not leaving the ghetto’, really it’s because they know they’re never going to get a chance to. Why would anyone want to stay there?” he realised. “Street’s with you forever. It’s good, if you apply it to something else. It don’t do much for you otherwise.”

Dizzee had moved on by second album Showtime (2005), then gloriously gate-crashed the pop mainstream with “Bonkers”, staying true to London language even as his delight at his success beamed from global stages, and he repaired to Home Counties and Miami homes. Since Raskit (2017), though, the former Dylan Mills has tried to reclaim lost ground. If a recent walking tour of Bow had something of Charlie Chaplin’s curious inspection of Kennington on a flying visit from Hollywood, this seventh album reinforces Dizzee’s effort to reconnect with his roots, and secure respect in the now booming grime scene he helped create. “I’m a fucking serious rapper,” this brilliant pop star recently told NME, clearly fearing the issue was in doubt.

The Dizzee who used to shimmy up pirate radio masts in his fever to make music has returned to making his own beats lately, but adds era-spanning MC talent here. The dreamy synth churn of “Act Like You Know” is sharpened by Smoke Boys’ drill modernity, while Dizzee slips through rap gears like Lewis Hamilton ghosting round a chicane (“Are you slow? If so...”). The standout “Eastside” starts with Ghetts’ venomous clamour, launching Dizzee into wired orbit, where he’s joined by a fully-revved Kano. All three old-timers insist seniority is a virtue, though only Dizzee undercuts his boasts with absurd local detail, claiming he’s “been steady since...there were only five channels on the telly”.

Dizzee is at once this knowing, and fully immersed in battle rap swagger and his subtly diverse sounds’ swirling, sculpted energy. If his need to restate authenticity is depressing, having escaped expectations so fully, it’s another honest artistic turn. And what if he falls short? “I’m in my prime,” he declares on the closing “Be Incredible”, with its creamy, crooning, paradisal ambience, and vignettes of ongoing struggle. “If I decline, I’ll want privacy/I’ll be fine.” This exploratory journey back won’t lose the wider, safer world he’s earned.

His need to restate authenticity is depressing, having escaped expectations so fully

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Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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