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Dizzee Rascal’s sixth album, Raskit, returns the compliment of Drake’s recent grime-flavoured mixtape - and with interest. It teams precision-tooled beats from a stellar array of US producers (Valentino Khan, Cardo and Paul Salva among them) with the sound of Britain’s finest MC - bar none, in a field of his own, champion of a league of one - “rapping my arse off”. The result is a spiralling sub-bass vortex of introspective jeep-beats which takes the man Jeremy Paxman called Mr Rascal right back to his roots, but with a hip-hop twist Jay-Z or E40 would be proud of.
“The idea of trying to be my 17 year old self again just because everyone thinks grime’s landed in their lap this week didn’t satisfy me”, Dizzee explains. “I wanted to use what I’ve learned to make the best rap album I could, with no hands in the air moments, just using as much English slang as I could over the best beats I could find”.
“I ain’t stush, that’s focus on my mush”
Dizzee Rascal - ‘Focus’
The urgent two-punch combination of “Focus” and “Wot U Gonna Do” gets Raskit to the first bend in a blur of dextrous internal rhymes. But even as the lightning-quick synth stabs are softening you up, it’s the fearlessness of the lyrics that really leaves a mark.
“Sitting there trying to write the same old song, trying to work out where it all went wrong
Wot u gonna do when your fans don’t care ‘cos they’re all grown up and they’ve all moved on?…
Wot u gonna do when it all goes sideways gotta work weekend shifts at MacD’s and you can’t party on a Friday?”
Dizzee Rascal - ‘Wot U Gonna Do?’
If there’s been a funnier and more brutally honest summation of the pressures piling up on a number one artist as people he used to know win Mercury prizes with his old rhymes, I’ve certainly never heard it. “The funny thing about that song is”, Dizzee grins, “People are always asking me who it’s about, when it’s obvious it’s about me”.
“Aint' no point in playing it safe - gotta know your role better state your case”
Dizzee Rascal - ‘Space’
How the guardians of linguistic propriety will respond to the lines “Sitting there trying to realign my chakras/driving me crackers/You bloody spackers/Should get off my knackers” remains to be seen. “I set myself the challenge of asking myself ‘What do I really think?’” Dizzee remembers - “Maybe I should say it because I shouldn’t say it…”. This is a track for “the hipsters that made themselves gatekeepers - ‘cos I was only cool when I had less money than you and I could be your little black thing, then you could run home and talk the Queen’s English to your mum”.
“Why lie? I’m the guy”
Dizzee Rascal - ‘Creed (I Ain’t Even Gonna Lie)’
Honesty is the best policy - especially when it comes to celebrity dating: “Truthfully she don’t wanna go to the movies/Wanna get a million views on her boobies”.
“Bunch of rubbish MCs: put them in a chute”
Dizzee Rascal - ‘How Bad Do You Want it?’
As well as literally binning the current competition, this forensically detailed account of events - the stabbing in Ayia Napa which so nearly ended Dizzee’s career when it was just getting started - that have now become “folklore” will be grist to the mill of the lyrical analysts of rapgenius.com . Spraying threats and accusations (some of them way too controversial to be highlighted in a press release) like a verbal catherine wheel, Dizzee fashions an explosive riposte to the gentrification of grime and a ringing endorsement of the pioneering spirit of “the true spitters on the roof”.
“I was in the dance with no vest on my chest - bredders licking shots just to vent and express”
Dizzee Rascal - ‘Make It Last’
A second vivid snapshot of the days before Dizzee got a cheque, when he was working up a sweat, this tragical mystery tour of early grime landmarks - Deja 92, Heat FM, the Stratford Rex - showcases vulnerability as well as swagger, just like Tupac did: “Imperial Gardens I was way out my depth… all I see is shooters it’s about to be a mess”. As the bass wobble waxes appropriately murderous, Dizzee unfolds a further true-life death-at-the-rave narrative of matchless intensity:
“I went to Tudor Rose thinking it would be a breeze/But all I saw was G’s/Bredders on their knees/ screaming ‘Why d’you take my boy away? God help him, please”.
“Talk about grime like I aint the staple? I was on the mic when you were in playschool"
Dizzee Rascal - ‘Ghost’
The closing instalment of Dizzee’s Grime: A Warning From History triptych harks back to the time “when I was a little bit thinner… waiting for the dominos guy to deliver for a free dinner”
“Country bumpkin - looking all chunky”
Dizzee Rascal - ‘Businessman’
Flipping hip-hop tradition as deftly as he once deposited Megaman on his arse, this “perky” paean to good economic husbandry finds Dizzee boasting about the smallness of his country residence - “Done with the mortgage/ Coulda had a bigger house/But I got it figured out/So I bloody bought it… Talk is cheap everybody can afford it”.
“Bop and keep it dipping cos the manor’s unforgiving”
Dizzee Rascal - ‘Bop n Keep It Dippin’
An impeccable homegrown G-funk elegy to dark deeds at Perfect Fried Chicken - home of 10 hot-wings for a pound - rejoicing in the immortal pay-off line “I ain’t flippin’ over no chicken”.
“She wants a fancy feller that will treat her like a boo and not treat her like a bird cos she’s had a cock or two”
Dizzee Rascal - ‘She Knows What She Wants’
Raskit offers more than its fair share of salty rhyme schemes, but “nonce/condiments” takes the biscuit.
“Everybody’s gotta eat, someone’s gonna cheat”
Dizzee Rascal - ‘Everything Must Go’
This first of two starkly clear-eyed assessments of the puppet-masters pulling the strings of social change in East London gives Boris Johnson and Margaret Thatcher vocal samples the grime makeover they have long been waiting for.
“Then developers rocked up, setting up shop got the whole place locked, and it all got copped and the hood got chopped and the natives cropped and the ends got boxed up. Then the price got knocked up - foreign investment raising the stock up, so the rent got propped up and it kept getting topped up so the heart got ripped out and rinsed out. Some got shipped out - got kicked out - few of them stayed but the rest just dipped out, took the quick route; power, money and big clout is what it’s about”.
Dizzee Rascal - ‘Slow Your Roll’
If you look at what grime is and always was - which is a regionally and sonically specific sub-set of hip-hop, the same way Trap is - the evolution of the genre can’t be separated from the gentrification of the place it came from. Heritage grime acts might want to act like there’s nothing new - in the ends or anywhere else for that matter - eating off Dizzee’s recipe till the McD’s cows come home. But the fact is shit changed. Dizzee Rascal changed it. And now Raskit has changed it again.
“Sick of Balmain, I should bring back Wrangler”
Dizzee Rascal - ‘Sick a Dis’
Ben Thompson, June 2017