Dizzee Rascal is sort of like the U.K. equivalent to Jay-Z. Totally different styles and completely different artists, Dizzee is London’s rap media darling, always releasing albums to great critical acclaim and success. Dizzee has built a solid fanbase with his off kilter garage/grime style with his last three albums, the last one Maths & English released in the U.S. by Definitive Jux. So how will it sound when Dizzee goes for a more “pop” sound with his latest, Tongue n’ Cheek?
Thankfully, the sound of British pop is completely different than the American pop music, so the result is surprisingly tolerable – and in fact, good. The album kicks off with “Bonkers”, a ridiculous electro-hop anthem produced by Armand Van Helden that beats you over the head and stabs you repeatedly with uncontained house energy. The song went on to be a #1 single in the U.K., suggesting they have a very different idea of what “pop” music is than we do.
More down to earth however are the Calvin Harris assisted singles “Dance Wiv Me” and “Holiday”, both which feature the brilliant song-writing and production of Harris. Here, Dizzee completely abandons the grimy style of his past, in trade for a more lighthearted, melodic, and most of all – fun – style, which works surprisingly well. This pair of tracks finds Dizzee covering the usual topics club rappers go on about, but doing so in his unmistakable trademark style.
And it’s Dizzee’s style which makes him such a pleasure to listen to, perhaps even more so if you are from the opposite side of the globe. Listening to him rattle off profanities in his unapologetic British accent on the B-More flavored “Road Rage” is hilarious, as is the laid back “Leisure”, where he proclaims “I couldn’t give a toss, man”. Coupled with excellent production, Dizzee’s style is all his own.
What’s remarkable however is that Dizzee doesn’t stick to one production style throughout the entire album. He constantly defies expectations of what the next track will sound like, and does so without sacrificing the quality or integrity of the rest of the record. Sure to follow suit with his other hit singles is the Tiesto produced “Bad Behavior”, a minimalist track from the big-room house producer, as Dizzee floats atop the beat with ease. Also standing out is the semi-conscious, dancehall tinged “Can’t Tek No More”, as well as the 90′s dance throwback “Dirtee Cash”.
Usually when artists decide to alter their signature style to reach a “wider audience”, the results are disastrous. Here is a case where the opposite is true, however the U.K. has a much broader definition of “pop music” than we do. Unfortunately, many U.S. listeners will simply not “get” Dizzee Rascal, as his sound is so remarkably different than what we define as hip-hop in a either an underground or commercial sense.
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