Once, there was indie and there was rap and never the twain shall meet. Despite indie-dance’s best efforts and Franz Ferdinand‘s stated manifesto to ‘make guitar music that girls dance to’, arguably the most two popular genres of music over the last few years have never been easy bedfellows.
That was before The Streets and the advent of so-called ‘grindie’ though. These days, Arctic Monkeys can duet with Dizzee Rascal and nobody raises an eyebrow, while Lethal Bizzle, the former member of grime group More Fire Crew, boasts special guest appearances from Babyshambles and Kate Nash, and most incongrously of all, a reworking of an old punk number by The Ruts.
While Bizzle’s second album retains the rawness of his debut, he also demonstrates an uncanny knack for a memorable tune, and some articulate, rapid-fire lyrics that will come as no surprise to those who remember his passionate defence of the UK rap industry after a very ill-advised attack by David Cameron last year.
Back To Bizness isn’t an album to have on in the background. It’s a heady rush of noise which demands to be listened to, and some may find the constant self-aggrandising chant of “the Bizzle, the Bizzle” and Lethal’s constant boasting of how great he is to be a bit much. Put it this way, it’s not going to change Cameron’s mind.
Police On My Back for instance could be read as reasserting the stereotype of young black man as aspiring gangsters (there’s an opening line of “I used to be a criminal” which makes one cringe), but the wit of the lyrics and the exhilarating sample of The Clash soon wins you over. Even better is the blistering Babylon’s Burning The Ghetto, in which Lethal spits venom about Tony Blair, David Cameron and British politics in general – all set to that Ruts tune.
The appearance by Babyshambles is actually a reworking of Le Belle Et Le Bete, but Bizzle’s speedy delivery sits surprisingly comfortable against Pete Doherty’s drawl. And while there’s not much that could be called ‘commercial’, the electro-pop sheen of Selfridges Girl Not On My Space or the anthemic strut of Bizzle Bizzle could easily become cross-over hits.
There are times where it all becomes a bit too much – Cameron’s verbal attack on the likes of Radio 1 and Tim Westwood is raked up again on You’ll Get Wrapped, but the overall result is aggressive, dark and depressing (although lent a deep sense of poignancy by the involvement of rapper Slinga, stabbed to death last year). Much better is the soulful Reflecting, which mixes a sunny acoustic lick against a positive, life-affirming message.
Sometimes you do wonder whether Bizzle is his own worst enemy. Look What You Done features Kate Nash’s unmistakable London-tinged vocals singing an infectious chorus, but Bizzle’s verses are the usual misogynistic ‘treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen’ rubbish that gives rap a bad name. Still, if you can ignore that, it’s one of the best tracks on the album.
With Dizzee Rascal’s stunning Maths And English garnering a recent Mercury Prize nomination, the time is obviously right for grime to make fresh inroads into the public consciousness. Back To Bizzle, although it sometimes misses the mark, is a fine example of the genre.