Now that Grime has been fully assimilated into the mainstream, it seems like it’s time for Dizzee Rascal to go back to his roots. For it’s easy to forget that, long before he went Bonkers, before the will.i.am collaborations and big pop anthems, Dylan Mills was an angry, vital MC. That edge has arguably been lost in recent years – especially on albums like The Fifth and Tongue N’ Cheek, but it seems he’s back with a vengeance on Raskit.
Raskit was one of Dizzee’s early nicknames, and from the offset it sounds like the Boy In Da Corner sequel that should have come out a decade ago. There are no guest spots from Robbie Williams, just hard beats, impressively skeletal arrangements and some surprisingly furious raps from Dizzee. Opening track Focus looks back at his 15 year career (“never thought I’d see the end of the CD, never thought I’d see social media replace the TV” runs one line) and The Other Side is a fiery response to those writing him off – “tell Willy I don’t need a pen pal” is the only explicit response to the many feuds instigated by former friend Wiley – but where Raskit really takes off is where Dizzee broadens his lyrical targets.
Everything Must Go, for instance, is an incendiary response to the gentrification of parts of London, complete with samples of Margaret Thatcher and Boris Johnson and lines like “get swept off their feet before them condos are complete” before furiously attacking “bottle poppers and socialites, gassed up and over-hyped… the world’s more complex than being first name on the guest list”.
Sick A Dis is even more explicit, with Dizzee spitting out a list of things he’s “sick of” – a long list ranging from the government, Facebook statuses, forced banter, O2 customer service and even “foreigners who claim to support Chelsea” interspersed with mutterings of “fuck off” and “bollocks”. It’s a surprising state of affairs that grumpy Dizzee is more entertaining that partying, bonkers Dizzee.
As well as this angrier, more focused lyrical approach, some of the arrangements on Raskit are pleasingly minimal. Spaced gives Dizzee some, well, space by utilising skittery beats and spooky synths, while album highlight Slow Your Roll (another attack on the post-Olympics gentrification of East London) features ghostly Burial-style vocal samples to create a reflective, wistful atmosphere which suits the song beautifully.
At 16 tracks and nearly an hour long though, Raskit does sometimes come across a bit overstretched. A few tracks in the middle could easily be cut (Business Man is a return to the old ‘pop’ Dizzee and seems a bit contrived, while the repetiveness of Bop N Keep It Dippin’ soon becomes wearying). Also, although there are some broader lyrical targets this time round, there are also far too many tracks where Dizzee tells us how great he is at rapping and how the younger MCs just aren’t as good.
However, if you’d pretty much given up on Dizzee Rascal sounding energised and vital again, Raskit should give you some heart. Figures like Stormzy can pick up the baton and carry on making grime crossover, but Dizzee is still just a rascal and doing his own thing.