Dizzee Rascal Maths + English

Dizzee Rascal Maths + English
Few artists can lay claim to the kind of career East London’s Dizzee Rascal has underway. A juvenile delinquent going nowhere fast in a poverty-ridden London suburb, he broke out of obscurity at the age of 18 with the white label single "I Luv U,” went on to release a debut album, Boy In Da Corner, which won the 2003 Mercury Music Prize and was touted as the leading light of what was, at the time, expected to be the imminent grime crossover. For numerous reasons, that crossover never happened and Dizzee was quick to dissociate himself from the burden of underground exclusivity that clung to his peers in the Roll Deep Crew. 2004’s equally impressive Showtime demonstrated that Dizzee wanted less to do with making grittier UK garage and more to do with making deviated U.S. hip-hop as obscured by countless hours of pirate radio. Three years later, Maths + English confirms Dizzee’s trajectory away from grime with an abstract edge and towards hip-hop with a pop flavour. Thankfully, Dizzee knows how to bring the party to each and every one of these 14 tracks without sacrificing his bite and the end result is not only the most accessible Dizzee Rascal album to date but also the most unapologetically straightforward and energetic. At 22 years old, this MC’s most developed skills come not from his flow, which has been impressively distinct from the beginning, but more so from his mastery behind the boards. Tracks like "Bubbles” and "Hard Back (Industry)” rumble with the propulsion of a signature DJ Premier backbeat but Dizzee runs even his most blatant Americanisms through a two-step rhythm structure, at once displaying his UK influence and bolstering the spitting grittiness that defines his vocal delivery. Lily Allen is featured on "Wanna Be” but, much like Dizzee does with "Da Feelin,” he plays with her vocal contribution as if he’s prepping a track for the Prodigy circa 1993. These markers of UK rave, IDM, jungle manifestations, two-step and, on "Pussyole,” the obvious sampling of Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s "It Takes Two” as punctured by late-night pirate-radio won’t endear Dizzee Rascal to any new American fans, a prospect he must have anticipated, as Maths + English is not being released on CD in the U.S. But, for anyone with a taste for progressive hip-hop and who likes to dance, this third album marks the powerful return of a rapper with talent and ingenuity to burn. (XL)