erasing clouds

Dizzee Rascal, Boy in Da Corner

reviewed by austin ray

There's a fairly good chance you don't want to read this review. Everyone has written about Dizzee Rascal already. Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, college newspapers - everyone. Quite a bit has been said about one of the biggest and most recent slices o' hype this side of The Streets. But you're here, and still reading apparently, so we might as well get into it.

Dizzee Rascal was 18 years old when this album was released, but this age belies his rhyming maturity. At the same time, it serves as justification that - despite what you've probably heard - Boy in da Corner isn't perfect. It's not the greatest album from this year or the last. This may come as a bit of a shock, but take a breath and we'll meet up in the next paragraph.

All right. Yeah, Rascal's still young, but so were a lot of MCs starting out. Some of hip-hop's classic artists were as young or younger than our boy Dizzee, and a few of them still have something to say even to this day.

"I'll probably be doing this/ probably forever," Rascal spits on "Fix Up, Look Sharp" and he's not kidding. Listening to this, the stand out track, it's hard to disagree with such a statement of braggadocio. The song is the best use of a Billy Squier sample ever (take that, Hova!), and will make you stomp around and yell "Woo!" at the appropriate moments.

But despite this album's ability to make listeners want to dance or maybe just make some mischief, there's a strange dichotomy present. In one moment, Rascal says something like "I'll stop smoking pot when my mom finds out," which points straight to his youth. In the next moment though, he's sounding world-weary with phrases like "It was only yesterday/ life was a touch more sweet." So which is the real Rascal?

After repeated listening of Boy in da Corner, it becomes apparent that Rascal is but a youthful MC who occasionally talks bigger than he really is. He probably has already seen more than he should have, but he's also only just beginning. His talent and potential speak in volumes. A quick run-down of some of the highlights is as follows:

--On "Stop Dat" Rascal sounds most like a British ODB as he waxes out of control over an abrasively plodding beat and ominous strings.
--"I Luv U" would pass as an electronica track if it weren't for its rhyming. But in the context of this album, it's a hip-hop he said/she said masterpiece.
--Over a Jeopardy-meets-Sesame-Street accompaniment, Rascal threatens on "Brand New Day" that "MC's better start chattin' about what's really happening, because if you ain't chattin' about what's happening, then where are you living? What're you talking about?"
--"2 Far" takes the phrase "speedy delivery" away from Mr. McFeely and makes it Rascal's modus operandi.

These moments, along with the out-and-out power of the aforementioned "Fix Up, Look Sharp," make Boy in da Corner a good album, but not the "God's-answer-to-all-that-is-wrong-with-music-in-this-world" the press has made it out to be. Give the guy some time, though. Dizzee Rascal will be around for a while, and from the sound of it, he's going to have plenty more to say.

Issue 21, March 2004

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