Dizzee Rascal's Raskit: What You Need To Know
Barely a year goes by, it seems, without some record company or other proudly announcing the arrival of an album by this or that artist which will, they promise, be a 'game-changer'. More often than not, the hype turns out to be just that, but every now and then an album comes along that really does live up to the billing of being something genuinely new and quite unlike anything you've heard before. Dizzee Rascal's debut album, Boy in da Corner, was one of them.
Born out of the emerging grime scene that began with the likes of Pay As U Go Cartel and Heartless Crew rapping over garage beats in some of London's least glamorous venues, the raw beats and boundless energy of Dizzee Rascal's debut sent shockwaves through the music industry, picking up that year's Mercury Prize along the way. Along with fellow Bow resident Wiley, Dizzee Rascal is widely recognised as one of the key figures in both creating and bringing grime from the underground to the airwaves of mainstream radio stations.
By the time of his fourth album, 2009's Tongue 'n' Cheek, Dizzee had made the journey from exciting new artist on the fringes to full-blown unit shifter; no fewer than six singles were released from the album, four of which went straight to the top of the UK Singles Chart, and the album saw him teaming up with the likes of Calvin Harris, Tiesto and Armand van Helden in search of a a sound that was more upbeat and squarely aimed at club dancefloors.
Almost fifteen years on from his debut, grime is now very much in the spotlight. In just the last year, artists like Stormzy and Kano found themselves in amongst the main categories at this year's BRIT Awards, while Skepta picked up an Ivor Novello songwriting award for his work on the genre-bending Konnichiwa. So where does all of that leave Dizzee?
The last few years have been uncharacteristically quiet for for the rapper and his last album, 2013's The Fifth, was a move into full-on pop territory that featured the likes of Jessie J and Robbie Williams, much to the bemusement to some of those who were fans of his early records. This week though the Rascal returns and he's promised “a very loud, rap-based album” - it's called Raskit, and here's everything you need to know about it...
A little background...
Aside from a handful of appearances on tracks by the likes of Calvin Harris, DJ Fresh & High Contrast and Adam F, the years since his fifth album have seen hardly any musical output from Dizzee, an absence which felt all the more strange given the wave of success grime artists have been enjoying in the last couple of years. It was June this year before we heard anything from the rapper about a new album, when he suddenly unveiled a brand new track 'Space' and announced the impending arrival of his sixth LP.
So is he seizing the opportunity with grime making a resurgence in the charts? Well, not exactly: “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,” a statement announcing the album read. “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”.
Who's producing it?
Those beats Dizzee was looking for have been provided by a list of producers including Paul Salva, Valentino Khan, Cardo and several others, including some produced by the rapper himself.
Any special guests?
Nope. His last two albums may have been brimming with guests, but this is all Dizzee, front and centre.
What does it sound like?
Although Dizzee has avoided the trap of trying to make another Boy in da Corner, Raskit is much closer sonically to his debut than to his last two albums; gone are the EDM beats and the party vibes, this is something altogether harder, with a lot more anger. That said, this isn't exactly grime either – the trap-influenced beats on tracks like 'Space' and 'Wot U Gonna Do?' offer up a 2017 model Dizzee who is clearly unwilling to retread old ground, getting his inspiration from other quarters instead.
'Slow Your Roll' is one of the album's best moments, while other highlights include 'Bop N Keep It Dippin', the politically-charged 'Everything Must Go' and the album's closing track, 'Man of the Hour'.
Lyrically, Raskit finds Dizzee back to his best. His flow has changed – partly because the beats are very different and partly because, well, what else can you do when so many imitators have been and gone? – but his message is as on point as it has ever been.
A lot of ground is covered here, one minute he's raging about the march of gentrification in his old neighbourhood, the next reminiscing about his days on pirate radio during grime's early years, and pointing out that the genre's 'golden days' weren't quite as golden as some would have you believe – see 'Make It Last', in which the rapper recounts memories of a double murder at a London venue. He's no doubt more accomplished as a lyricist and a performer, but that raw edge that made him such a sensation in the first place is clearly still present.
Does it deliver?
Dizzee has made a point of saying that he is done “chasing pop hits” and if you're hoping for a return to his raw and edgy roots, Raskit doesn't disappoint. It isn't a recreation of his old work, but having done both the raw underground stuff and the chart-busting pop hits, Dizzee is clearly at a point in his career where he is focussed only on the music, with commercial success a secondary consideration.
That's not to say that Raskit is inaccessible – it really isn't – but Dizzee is back to doing what he does best here and if The Fifth was a misstep in the eyes of some of his fans, Raskit sees him firmly back to where he should be.