Against All Odds, Dizzee Rascal Is Worth Listening To Again

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Unlike his peers who had remained largely silent over the past decade before exploding back onto the grime scene in triumphant comeback, Dizzee Rascal remained active during this time. It’s just that, tragically, nobody particularly cared what he was doing or when his next project was likely to drop. However, Dizzee Rascal’s latest release, “Raskit,” is one of 2017’s biggest surprises mostly because it is actually fantastic.

Dizzee Rascal: “Boy in Da Corner”

In the comparatively brief history of grime’s proper studio releases, few (if any) albums remain as highly influential, or are as highly regarded as Dizzee Rascal’s 2003 debut “Boy In Da Corner.” Released while Dizzee Rascal was still in his teens, “Boy In Da Corner” represents not just a massive commercial and critical breakthrough for the young London producer/emcee, but for the genre of grime as a whole.

When critics talk about a “modern resurgence” in grime releases, and note highly regarded new releases from household names like Skepta and Wiley, and new performers  such as Logos and Mr. Mitch, providing new takes on the genre, perhaps what they are noticing is not a grime “revival,” so much as grime’s ability to exist as a studio-centric and album-based art, finally catching up to its long history among more renegade release formats.

Grime may have had already proven its artistic merit via pirate radio-waves, but as for seeing grime transcend the pirate broadcast medium to such a degree of success while going through the “official” channels, “Boy In Da Corner” represents a true turning point.

Of course, the album’s pioneer status is hardly just due to it being a successful grime LP release. The music on “Boy In Da Corner” sonically pushed grime forward. The music succeeds in stripping down the genre to a kind of aggressive minimalism scarcely seen throughout the genre’s history. In addition, the album emphasizes the grime emcee as a true storyteller, rather than just a source of audacious braggadocio and rapping prowess.

“Boy In Da Corner” is mentioned in practically every conversation regarding grime since 2003 (and rightfully so). What tends to be talked about less, is where Dizzee Rascal went after the release of his masterpiece. The subject is scarcely broached because unfortunately, the answer ended up being “nowhere of note.”

A year after “Boy In Da Corner” shook the world, Dizzee dropped “Showtime,” a proficient and well-composed, but generally forgettable LP. With some possible minor exceptions over the next couple of years, “Showtime” was the last piece of work Dizzee Rascal would release that was really worth listening to.

Dizzee Rascal and “Raskit”

Inexplicably, Dizzee Rascal, in just a few short years, went from being the most exciting name in perhaps any genre of music, to just plain boring. His downfall eventually culminated in 2013’s “The Fifth,” widely regarded as one of the worst albums of the year. And so even as the 2010s continued to progress, and many a grime legend from the genre’s golden age began to release modern classic after modern classic, nobody really saw Dizzee Rascal following suit.

After a brief half-minute intro into “Raskit’s” first track, “Focus,” Dizzee’s ever-recognizable voice rushes out of the gate with far more confidence that he’s exhibited in what seems to have been eternity, and even more remarkably, this happens atop a beat that jettisons the derivative pop-rap production Dizzee’s been flirting with for years. Instead, this beat hits hard, fast, heavy, and is undeniably grime in the truest sense of the word. Dizzee Rascal is back in a big way, and that realization is downright makes fans euphoric.

After the absolutely classic-sounding “Focus,” Dizzee moves into “Wot U Gonna Do?” an intriguing track in its mixing of grime convention with a contemporary American trap-rap production approach. While Dizzee has attempted engaging with the latter style over the years, his voice never seemed to mesh well with trap’s abundant hi-hats and other idiosyncrasies; when those styles are woven into the unabashed bass-onslaught of grime, Dizzee fits perfectly, and “Wot U Gonna Do?” manages to be one of Dizzee Rascal’s most stylistically ambitious moments, as well as one of “Raskit’s” highlights.

A great deal of “Raskit” wouldn’t be served entirely well by pedantic analysis, not because it is uninteresting or lacking, but because the core of “Raskit” is defined by simply being very good grime.

“Raskit” doesn’t necessarily add much new to the genre, but it doesn’t need to. Tracks like the anthemic, “I Aint Even Gonna Lie,” and the dubstep-laden, “Sick A Dis,” succeed not due to daring experimentation, but because they show audiences that, not matter how long it’s been since “Boy In Da Corner” changed the grime playing field forever, Dizzee Rascal remains more than capable of playing that field with more proficiency, musicianship, and sheer, unapologetic swagger than anybody else in the game.

 

 

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