Published Jan 01, 2006Dial up Dizzee Rascal when his phone's turned off and you'll be greeted by the first few bars of Clipse's "Hot Damn," in which Pharrell Williams reminds us that yes, it's a brand new day. Such seems to be the motto guiding the still-teenaged Dizzee as he launches Showtime, the follow-up to last year's Boy In Da Corner. With the rest of the world still reeling from his fearsome debut, the precocious Londoner's gone and lapped the competition again, veering on Showtime from clench-jawed terror-mongering to kindergarten consciousness without missing a beat.
Dizzee, in case you've been sleeping, is the phenom at the heart of the UK grime movement, a loose collection of black Britons who've sifted through the rubble of collapsed genres to discover a new style of street music. Weaned on a balanced diet of drum & bass, two-step garage and Dirty South rap, the artist born Dylan Mills has risen higher than all his peers, reeling in last year's Mercury Music Prize for his (and his scene's) first full-length release.
Two weeks before BIDC's release, Dizzee was stabbed while on vacation, an incident that fuelled the paranoia that courses through Showtime, nowhere more fluidly than on "Respect Me." Riding over fellow grime producer DJ Wonder's implosive bass backing, Rascal declares that "you people are going to respect me if it kills you," his words emerging from behind tightly gnashed teeth. With this track, Dizzee's not just asking you to listen to him; he's ordering you to.
"That was the first song I did after I came back from that [stabbing]," explains the chatty Brit. "I was in a rotten state when I did it. I did the vocal while I still had my stitches in, so that's why it sounds gritty like that. It's kind of like my version of [Kanye West's] Through The Wire,' innit?"
If, on Boy In Da Corner, Dizzee seemed just as strong on the boards as he did on the microphone, Showtime confirms that no matter how exquisite his beats, this boy was born to spit. Bar a handful of MCs on this side of the Atlantic, no one's rhyming better than Dylan, whose verses careen in and out of lanes like so many speeding cars, slowing just long enough to be detected before zooming off into the horizon.
Such is the indelible image left by Showtime's closer, "Fickle," a mutant jungle number featuring a sped-up vocal sample by famed American soul-man Lamont Dozier. After noting that "everybody wants to be ghetto but nobody wants to be poor," Dizzee goes on to outline his own rise to notoriety, asking himself what the cost of living the high life might be.
In this respect, the teenager resembles his fellow countryman Mike Skinner (aka the Streets), whose recent sophomore effort (A Grand Don't Come For Free) bore a similarly paranoid edge. As Dizzee is quick to note, fame has changed his life for better and worse, pulling him out of the council estate but saddling him with the burden of countless biters and backbiters. In this light, it's easier to read Dizzee's earlier call for respect as a dire entreaty, not simply a defiant boast.
"As long as I'm around," he says, "I'm hoping people are going to respect me because I'm going to keep stretching out, keep showing my range and my versatility. You can't buy respect you've got to stay consistent for a long time.
"And trust me," he concludes, pausing for effect. "I ain't going nowhere."