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Dizzee Rascal Tongue N Cheek Reviewed Track By Track
The Quietus , September 17th, 2009 10:09

More potential singles than Thriller? Signs of a new reggae direction? A revitalization of Big Beat? Massive Euro Trance? Dizzee Rascal has a lot to offer on his fourth album

1. Bonkers

If you’d told me that this is what Dylan Mills would be doing now back in 2003 I would, predictably, have laughed at you. Like a lot of others I was in awe of the then East London teen who slouched into view with two remarkable singles ‘I Luv U’ and 'Fix Up Look Sharp' before releasing the album of the year Boy In Da Corner, which sounded like a symphony written for stuttering and misfiring Vic 20s. Obviously on this Ronseal’d up, does what it says on the tin, Radio 1 friendly banger, there’s no room for 'I Luv U''s amazing mix of idiot savant teen txt chatter mixed with razor sharp observations on the battle of the sexes, like Dangerous Liaisons playing out in smoker’s corner. But you’ve heard this already right? Course you have. It’s the single that even won over Prince William. I bet Paxman curses every time he catches himself going “Some people think I’m bonkers!” The best thing about this song however is the fact that it marked a return to the demotic we’re used to hearing Dizzee spit in, and a quiet abandonment of the fake Jay-Z aping gangsterisms of the otherwise excellent Maths+English. After all calling Bow the “hood” was a bit of a stretch, even for the UK’s best rapper.

2. Road Rage

It has an abundance of energy this album. It feels like you’re constantly trying to herd 100 kinetic frogs into a bin bag just by listening to it. There is a sonic nod to the great lead in single off the last album here, ‘Pussyole (Old Skool)’. Again, DR is a cheeky British Herbert, not an American thug and his words reflect this again: “Beep Beep! Coming through! Move over! Yeah you!” He regales us with a tale of going for a ride in his Mini Cooper just after passing his test only to have an unmarked police car crash into him – ironically about the time he had the single ‘Sirens’ out. It’s funny hearing him go ‘Neeeeooooow!’ imitating a speeding car over tuff street beats, that are almost Wax Trax industrial in strength, with production overtones of the Bomb Squad working with Roland acid equipment.

3. Dance Wiv Me

It’s tempting to say that vaguely lame ersatz 80s disco beat producer Calvin Harris has benefitted from his association with Dizzee than the other way round. It’s certainly true that the rapper’s squeaky, up in your grill vocal brashness removes some of the chrome sheen of the production or counters it at least. Calvin’s wine bar beats are given some much needed grit. Anyhow (or anyhoo, as Diz has taken to rapping) this is another sign that he has realised that becoming like Jay Z in ambition and reach, obviously doesn’t need him to actually mimic the Jigga to any great degree. And this success is probably reflected that this is the first 100,000 selling single in the UK since Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’, which kind of tells you the sort of circles he’s moving in now.

4. Freaky Freaky

No one pronounces banana like Dizzee Rascal. He’s using it in a rather more lascivious manner than he did on ‘Fix Up Look Sharp’ though, this being a pretty bracing trip through some of his recent sexual history. (“Chana. She didn’t give me no drama. After the show she was on my banana” gives you some idea of the level.) And it’s nasty. (Your interpretation of the word nasty will depend entirely on your age and geographical location, I guess.) What’s more interesting though than the notches on Dizzee Rascal’s exceedingly loose fitting belt is his actual flow on this track which is phenomenal. His words clatter out as a riot of plosive consonance and vocal clicks and tics which create a mass bubble wrap bursting session of rhymes.

5. Can’t Tek No More

Easily one of the stand out tracks on the album, this Shy FX enhanced blistering Brixton riot reggae, sampled as it is from Aswad’s ‘Warrior Charge’ and amped up with jeep beats and sub bass. The song found its genesis when Dizzee fell asleep round at his cousin’s house watching Franco Rosso’s 1980 South London film Babylon and woke up during the MC’s chant of “I can’t tek no more of dat” over and over, just to have ShyFX send him the sample woven into the fabric of a new song. The lyrics are a bit 6th form common room ranting at the injustices of the world but just when you think he’s gone all SWP, he bizarrely launches into a rant against the congestion charge. Not the only track on the album that reminds of the (acceptable) early doors big beat of Monkey Mafia, Lion Rock and Chemical Brothers.

6. Chillin Wiv Da Man Dem

This fits into the same slot as ‘Da Feelin’‘ did on Maths + English. It simply purrs of Tupac, Dre and even further back to the Isley Brothers or Bill Withers. It’s a blast of bliss hanging in the air like dope smoke on a hot, still summer’s day. His rose coloured spectacles seem to have been enhanced by all the ganja fumes as he casts his mind back to (perhaps) simpler times in Bow, East London with nothing more than getting beaten at Playstation games and arguments about the football to worry about. He frets that people think he’s lost touch with his roots and he doesn’t return home any more. But as with everything smoothed down by THC intake, reality intrudes in the form of moody, time stretched vocals.

7. Dirtee Cash

A slightly odd and stilted intro gives way to an interpolation/reworking of The Adventures Of Stevie V’s ‘Dirty Cash (Money Talks)’ – the home counties rave classic which is beefed up here with a funky synthesized clavinet. Obviously the lyrics will have more of a resonance in these times of down turn and credit crunch. While not the best track on the album, this tells you a lot about Dizzee and his sharp pop nous and business acumen (and that of producer/mentor Cage). This isn’t jaw dropping or even that engaging but it does have top 5 hit, probable number one written all over it. The vast majority of these songs could easily be released as singles in their own right.

8. Money Money

One of the best tracks here and the closest thing to being old school grime. In fact this almost could have appeared in a more lo fi form on Boy In Da Corner as some kind of fantasist/aspirational anthem. It’s a bouncy slice of braggadocio about appearing “on the telly with Jeremy Paxman” and about his now vastly improved relationships with traffic wardens and, of course, “money money money, girls girls, cash cash”; a direct link back to ‘Bubbles’ the bling anthem off the last album. This album has a lot of contradictory impulses rubbing up against one another and this is a brash UK Jay Z/Loadsamoney flinging handfuls of his dead royalty in the air: “I think I might just quit music and go away.” Except that he always waits until you think you’ve got him figured before giving the rug another tug: “No rims on my car but I had a mortgage before I was 22.”

9. Leisure

This track centres round a relatively brave lyric that deconstructs the double myth of gangsta rap as it applies to the modern British inner city youth, with Dylan Mills – rather than Dizzee Rascal – trying to pull the scales from eyes with the sentiment: “It’s only entertainment and I do it at my leisure”. It has a curiously flat and smooth pop meets aqua crunk flavoured synth groove but to criticize this song for unshowy production is to miss the point as this is one of the few tracks where lyrical message is paramount and not just the part of a bigger whole. He berates street culture for encouraging young people to fight amongst themselves instead of uniting against common enemies.

10. Holiday

It’s already another number one for Dizzee so it barely matters that Calvin Harris’ big room Ibiza groove is easily the weakest link on this otherwise great album but even this has it’s redeeming features such as the hilarious and self-deprecating lyrics: “Don’t look at my passport photo/I know I look a bit loco/And I know that my Spanish is so-so.” Interestingly Harris originally offered this half baked track to The Saturdays, who turned it down – undoubtedly for its overpowering whiff of quesillo.

11. Bad Behaviour

Another genius move here, that you or I probably wouldn’t have considered, was drafting in Tiesto, the Dutch Edam perfumed Euro trance producer, to give the album closer the big room banger feel. There are some lyrical hints that, yes, the album title is a rude euphemism and even an unexpected lyrical steal from Judas Priest (“Breaking the law! Breaking the law!”) as well as a bracing Kris Akabusi reference over a booming and fecal bassline rounds off a great album.