Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dizzee Steps Up

Dizzee Rascal will be appearing at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom this Tuesday the 22nd, a step up from his appearance a couple years ago at the smaller sister venue Quixote’s. Last time he performed here was on the eve of the April 2005 blizzard that buried the city, but it didn’t start until after his show was over – a good thing, ‘cuz the show rocked (there’s a 14-second Youtube clip from the show, but the sound is so bad it’s not even worth posting). Weather did keep some people away, which was too bad because they missed out on some classic hip-hop. Two MCs and a DJ to keep things moving – it was total old school, post-Run-DMC style, though filtered through Dizzee’s modern sound, taking in drum & bass, UK Garage, Tricky and whatever else he likes to name as precedents to the “grime” he pushes.
Last time here he was riding his sophomore effort Showtime and still laid heavily on his debut Boy in Da Corner. This time he’s touring on the most consistent and mature record of his career (Maths & English - more on that in a moment) and I hope that maturity comes through in the show. He’s always avoided the gangster trap that snares too many young MCs – he wants to write about his hard times but doesn’t want to glorify them. But he goes further than that and enters those same tales within a framework set by songs like “Sittin Here” (from Boy in Da Corner) and the lead track on the new album (“World Outside”); songs that posit an image of him as a thoughtful, reflective, wondering what happens when he ain’t a kid no more and it’s not all fun and games. He knows, too - knows that it’s gonna be serious, knows you can’t go through life messing around like too many of his mates still do. That’s what makes songs like “Suk My Dick” and “Where Da G’s” palatable for me – it’s his way of talking live and direct to part of his audience (and also a way for him to indulge some petulant delights) and make them listen up when he chooses to get all serious. With luck they’ll learn from his wisdom.
And for me I’ll listen across the board because he knows how to make the music work - dense and aggressive on the first album, lighter, catchier tone on the second, and this time around he’s neither hard nor pop exclusively, yet retains qualities of both and blends them in a very engaging way. If his stage presence has matured the way his record making skills have, this ought to be in the running for one of my favorite shows of the year.