This Dizzee Rascal article was written by Sam Holmes, a GIGsoup contributor
2003 saw the exclusively underground scene of Grime break into the mainstream thanks largely to Dizzee Rascal’s Mercury prize winning ‘Boy in Da Corner’. With many unhappy due to the absence of Grime artists such as Stormzy in this year’s nominees, it is important to take a look at how a 19 year old from East London managed to win the award in a year that included the likes of critical and public darlings Radiohead and Coldplay.
The album begins with ‘Sittin’ here’; a track that nicely introduces the raw and intimate charisma of Rascal as well as the industrially dark beats that also feature through out. Although simplistic, these beats evoke perfectly the often problematic situation Rascal found himself in leading up to the creation of the album. Just listening to the instrumentals of songs such as ‘Wot U on?’ paints a vivid picture of Rascal’s surroundings as he grew up being expelled from numerous schools and becoming involved in criminal activity.
Whilst his lyrics add to this picture with various stories of how violence, guns and drugs played a part in his growing up, they are curated in a mature and witty manner. ‘Jezebel’ sees Rascal describe the promiscuous ways of a girl from his school with some particularly crude, but nonetheless funny, lyrics. However, the last verse of the song shows Rascal’s true feelings on the matter; ‘But she wonder man/only if she was six years younger/damn’. ‘Brand New Day’ sees him worry about what lies ahead; ”Cos i’m looking at the future, it ain’t right/So I look out my window, pray every night’. This isn’t just a teenager bragging about the illegal and immoral things he sees and partakes in; he knows there’s no future in it. This helps to reveal Rascal’s true feelings and profoundness, made even more impressive by his young age at the time of the album’s creation.
His delivery further adds to the album’s sheer power; his youth providing him with the confidence and energy needed to rap as relentlessly as he does on tracks such as ‘Stop Dat’ and ‘I Luv U’. Rascal demands undivided attention from his audience with little subtlety on offer, but this is only adds to the album’s charm and character.
2003 wasn’t the most competitive year for the Mercury prize with forgettable indie acts such as Athlete and The Thrills nominated, whilst the likes of Soweto Kinch and Eliza Carthy were arguably there to help create some much needed diversity in terms of genre. Radiohead released their worst album since ‘Pablo Honey’, Coldplay released the very enjoyable but ultimately safe ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head’ and The Darkness, Lemon Jelly, Terri Walker, Floetry and Martina-Topley Bird provided laudable, but not special, records. However, this shouldn’t take away from Rascal’s win whose monumental self-confidence and maturity saw him craft not only one of Grime’s most important albums, but one of British music’s.