Boy in Da Corner LP/CD (XL, 2003; XL/Matador with extra track, 2004)
Debut Album of London-based rapper Dylan Mills aka Dizzee Rascal. While some audiophiles might classify it as grime, I prefer to think of it as an eccentric blend of drum 'n bass electronica and East Coast hip-hop diffused through a Cockney-slang filter. That is, his rhymes, are just as textually interesting as the warped drum beats and synthesizers keeping time in the background. Some people think his lyrics are nearly incomprehensible, I disagree. While those who don't listen to much rap music might have trouble understanding him, most people listening to the album will just have difficulty with some unfamiliar slang terms. Check out Jangie's writeup here for more on Mills' influences. In addition, Boy in Da Corner won the coveted Mercury Music Prize in 2003.
Sittin' Here - Dizzee Rascal
Relative to most of the material on Boy in Da Corner, this song is pretty chilled out. It begins with a background track that can only be described as stacatto ambience with a touch of reverb. Mills keeps his delivery calm and reserved on this track, but his lyrics are still raw and impressive:
I’m vex at humanity, vex at the earth
I keep getting vex, till I think what’s the worth?
I’m just sitting here, I aint saying much I feel to cry
I’m sitting here depressed and I don’t know why
I try to pull myself together, tell myself fix up
And I keep myself from bawling but my eyes they erupt
Stop Dat - Dizzee Rascal
I'm not really a fan of this song. It just doesn't seem digestable, i.e., it is an aural assault. Looking back at my own introduction for this writeup, I now believe I will have to contradict myself. It is quite difficult to understand, at the very least, 70% of the lyrics in this song are unintelligible. Stop Dat is somewhat of an experience. Whether that is a good thing or not, well... the jury is still out on that matter.
I Luv U - Dizzee Rascal
This song starts off with a sampled female voice prattling those special words off on a loop. What follows is a back and forth hip-hop duet, dominated by Mills' rhymes, but featuring a strong pseudo-anonymous (I couldn't find info on who she is) female voice. All in all, I Luv U is characterized by a thudding synth bassline and off-kilter rhythms.
Brand New Day - Dizzee Rascal
One of the most powerful songs on the album. At first, the jingly-jangly almost Asian sounding, but not quite, background music is obtrusive and irritating, but it grows on you... like crack. Honestly though, the lyrics for Brand New Day are at once hopeful and impressively ravaged. This following selection is one of my favorites:
Everyday I wake up, I can't help but feel
I'm certain of life, I mean 'dis is real
Mouthfuls skippin' 'round my head like dancers
I know its wrong to question, but I need answers
Da whos, da wots, da hows, da whens, da whys
You can look in my face, you see da pain in my eyes
Tears ready to fall like the rain in the skies
But I hope dat I put my feet down and rise.
2 Far - Dizzee Rascal w/ Wiley
Well it starts with this weasely little voice (I'm assuming that this is Wiley) in the background reminiscent of Stitch (of past Disney critter fame). The background music is dominated by the same vacant stacatto plucking noise found earlier in Sittin' Here. This track is mostly forgettable.
Fix Up, Look Sharp - Dizzee Rascal
One of Boy in Da Corner's singles. This is a fun song. It features a strong and regular beat (as opposed to some of those twisted creations to be found in other songs). Fix Up, Look Sharp features some cool samples too, including a grungry guitar track and a bluesy sounding male vocal track.
Cut 'Em Off - Dizzee Rascal
This song is surrealistic. The background music is spacy, like hip-hop meets the sound effects of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Hold Ya Mouf' - Dizzee Rascal w/ God's Gift
This track features the guest appearence of God's Gift. His rhyming style and voice are much more typical and accessible than Mills'. However, this collaboration works well, because their styles are so different. The contrast is appealing. The background music is driven by bass and a loop heavy keyboard sounding track.
Round We Go - Dizzee Rascal w/ God's Gift
This track is irritating. Round We Go sounds like a playground song on the choruses. Despite this, I really like the verses, Dizzee just fits so many words into a single phrase in some spots. He bombards the listener with his story. That said, this track is not as accessible as some of the others, but it has the potential to grow on you.
Jus' A Rascal - Dizzee Rascal w/ God's Gift
There is a striking contrast in this song. It exists between the absurdly goofy chorus, echoing the lines:
He's jus' a Rascal,
...and the powerful, almost threatening verses. This song just plain kicks ass. Jus' A Rascal is simply engaging. Additionally, while there is a decent drum track, the song finds its power in the simple rhythm guitar track accompanying Mills' lightning-quick delivery.
He's jus' a Rascal,
He's jus' a Rascal,
Wot U On? - Dizzee Rascal w/ God's Gift
I find it difficult to put my finger down on Wot U On?, and figure out what's going here that makes me like it so much. It features a prominent bassline, as well as a back and forth duet similar to the one found in I Luv U?.
Jezebel - Dizzee Rascal
Of all the tracks on this album that feature a vacant sounding stacatto part, this is the strongest. In fact, Jezebel is my favorite song. It is also the most accessible song on the album (the only likely reason I can think of for why it wasn't picked as a single is that the lyrics are absolutely filthy, despite the fact that damn is the only swear word in the song). Jezebel chronicles the slut-tastic adventures of a poor British girl in London and the viscious cycle of single-motherhood and poverty that inevitably ensues.
Seems 2 Be - Dizzee Rascal
Skip this one. It is repetitive and and will annoy the hell out of you.
Live O - Dizzee Rascal
I love the intro to this song, it has a cool synth bass fade in and segue into a chime over the looped voice of a telephone operator. The rest of the song is decent but nothing special. Mills' keeps things going well on Live O, but there is nothing memorable here.
Do It! - Dizzee Rascal
Like Brand New Day, Do It! sounds vaguely Asian. This track, along with Sittin' Here are the most chilled out songs on the album. The lyrics are optimistic and carry along well with the persistant themes of rising above poverty and welfare present on the album:
Sleep tight everything will be alright,
By the end of the will be the day, just pray 'dat you see it.
Strongly got to be it if you wanna get through it,
Strecth your mind to the limit you can DO IT!
Vexed (bonus track on the US release) - Dizzee Rascal
Somewhat reserved, but still moves along quickly. It sits somwhere between Jus' A Rascal and Do It!. While Vexed is worthy of inclusion, if you own the original British release, it does not justify running out and buying the new version of the album.