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by Stefan Braidwood
30 March, 2005@12:00 am
0 comments

    Dizzee Rascal’s Showtime, starts with its title cut; a dissonant, sparse beat that feels like an intrusive hangover, over which his breathless flow ricochets in squeaky strange fashion. Oh God, not again. Why the hell do the press boost this guy over Brits like Skinnyman or RZA-collaborator Blak Twang? But then “Stand Up Tall” blasts in, an 80s arcade machine retooled for the rave garage dancefloor, and Dizzee requests everyone gets “their back off the wall” on the upbeat chorus. It’s poppy, fun, exciting, and his flow is off-kilter but never off beat. Ok, so it ain’t Lil Flip ripping Pacman, but maybe the “boy from Bow” has more to offer than press-pleasing oddness.

   Showtime is an album of schizophrenic extremes, from the ominously smothering walls of bass and threatening lyrical paranoia of “Graftin’” or “Face” that are pure grime (“I’m a lovely lad/I’ll give you the loveliest beating/you’ve ever had”) to the kiddy playground optimism and tuneless singalong of “Dream” and the lovely, mellow thoughtfulness of “Imagine” which asks his audience to put ghetto life “in perspective”; if they were “sipping wine” in a country mansion, would they “shiver at the robberies” instead of wanting to be gangsta?

     Despite the, er, rawness of his sex talk (“when I penetrate/I cause mass hysteria/and pleasure-pain”, from “Girls”) and more sights-raising advice (“If you know you’re from the slums/keep reppin’/no doubt/stay ghetto if you must/just remember/to get out”); between the R&B choruses of “Get By”, where Dizzee supplies more memorable lyrics than Kweli managed for Kanye, the Rascal is much closer to Eminem than Nas. He can be manic, dark and vicious, and he spends more time than strictly necessary defending his fame, though he does it insightfully. Crucially, however, he’s also charming, witty and frequently funny, if in a more understated way than Mathers.

     While at first, some may not like his high-pitched voice or his, at times, almost indecipherable, high-speed flow, but by the end of this colorfully busy album you’d be hard pressed to deny that he’s both talented and as real as anyone in the game. Despite what he may claim, it needn’t kill you to respect him; this is flawed but undeniably dope.

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