October 1, 2009
DIZZEE RASCAL (born 1985) grew up in Bow, an East London ghetto of burnt-out mopeds, stabbings, pitbulls, and postcode turf wars between gangs of angry teenagers. After a prescient teacher gave him the know-how to produce his own music from this bleak well of inspiration, he dragged the London grime scene into the mainstream in 2003 with “I Luv U,” a darkly comic duet that told a tale of teenage pregnancy against a backdrop of simple, dirty beats and beeps. But it was the second single from his award-winning Boy In Da Corner album, “Fix Up, Look Sharp” that exemplified the wholly original and grimly eclectic Rascal style: vocals that simultaneously imply bellowing Cockney barrow boy, crowd-inciting garage MC, and sleek-tongued rapper; lyrics that recount East London gang retribution with an evil smile (“Stay sweet as a nut, sweet like Tropicana/When the hammer hits, your head splits like banana”); and catchy but highly unlikely samples, in this case the high-pitched cod-rock singing and bombastic drumming of Billy Squier’s “The Big Beat.” With his latest album, Tongue N’ Cheek, Dizzee admits that he has made a career move away from grime towards something much more poppish (and lucrative). But he will always be remembered as an innovative street urchin who shook up the urban music world like a snow globe.
HIP HOP ON HILOBROW: HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM series (25 posts about old-school hip hop) | DJ Kool Herc | Gil Scott-Heron | Slick Rick | Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels | Afrika Bambaataa | Biz Markie | U-God | Slug | Adam Yauch | Ghostface Killah | DJ Run | Flavor Flav | Scott La Rock | GZA | Schoolly D | Aesop Rock | Terminator X | Notorious B.I.G. | Melle Mel | Doug E. Fresh | Kool Keith | Rick Rubin | Rakim | Ol’ Dirty Bastard | Madlib | Talib Kweli | Danger Mouse | Kool Moe Dee | Chuck D | Dizzee Rascal | RZA | Cee-Lo Green | Best Ever Clean Hip Hop
Each day, HILOBROW pays tribute to one of our favorite high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes on that person’s birthday. Click here for more HiLo Hero shout-outs.