Kicking off the much anticipated Raskit Tour in Liverpool, Christy Smyth finds Dizzee Rascal well and truly back in the corner.
In 2003 people thought Dizzee Rascal had managed to bring Grime into the mainstream with his Mercury Prize winning debut Boy In Da Corner.
If it did, it was a long process. For most of the noughties, Grime still sounded like the punchline to a joke that no one thought was very funny (see Klass A‘s Slap Dat Batty). Since then, the former Dylan Mills’ sound has catered to pop-music listeners more and more with every release. And in a time when Barry Scott ruled the world, that meant Grime had to go.
If it had been anyone else they’d have been called a sell-out. The old school fans would feel betrayed, and the new school fans would be quick to forget. But this never happened with Dizzee, simply because he’s Dizzee.
Dizzee has a charm that can’t be denied. Dizzee is a rascal by name and nature. Dizzee wrote Bonkers, and everyone loves Bonkers. My dad loved Bonkers, and he starts conversations with strangers by asking them what their favourite ABBA song is.
Mr. Rascal never had to worry much about his credibility because even when he was balls-deep in pop music, he carried it off with the good humour of a cheeky-chappy. And if anyone did feel betrayed, he would still always be the man who made Boy In Da Corner.
In the past couple of years Grime really has hit the mainstream, and sounds better than it ever did before. Thus lending Dizzee Rascal the perfect opportunity to mix business with pleasure. On the first night of the tour supporting his new album Raskit, he does just this. The record itself is the grimiest thing he’s made in a long time, and when he opens with its lead single Space it already feels like the time between his first and latest releases never happened.
The new tunes sound great. He doesn’t chat much in the intervals, giving the impression of each song being a part of one long non-stop-hip-hop cavalcade of rhyme. It’s not like he flows fast without saying anything either. The line, “Sittin’ here tryna realign my chakras / Driving me crackers / You bloody spackers should get off my knackers“, is perhaps the funniest I’ve heard since Giggs spoke about the benefits of Digestives and cinnamon tea.
When he offers, early on, to take us “all the way back”, there is noticeable excitement in the room. As if we’ve been waiting for him to do this for some time now.
He certainly doesn’t disappoint. Besides the obligatory handful of hits at the end, his whole set is made up of songs from Boy In Da Corner and Raskit, both in their own way taking us “all the way back”. He embodies the role of serious Grime artist so well that when he does eventually do Holiday and Dance Wiv Me, it seems a little out of place.
When, at the end of the show, Dizzee describes the tour as his “comeback”, we all know what he really means. It’s not the fact that it’s been four years since his last album, it’s that it’s been fourteen since his last album that sounded this raw.
The ultimate comeback for a Dizzee we only knew briefly, back in 2003. If that’s the Dizzee Rascal you want to hear, now is the perfect time to catch him live. If it’s the chart-topping, pop-friendly version you wanted, you might have missed the boat, because the boy is well and truly back in the corner.
Pictures by Brian Sayle