“Urban” music from UK acts has perhaps not enjoyed the wide spread success it currently is at any other point, especially from the stand point of rappers/MCs. The likes of Tinie Tempa, Tynchie Stryder, Chipmunk, Wiley and now Wretch 32, are all flourishing but perhaps it is arguable that they all have Dizzee Rascal to thank. Dizzee’s debut album ‘Boy In Da Corner’ and his release ‘Tongue n’ Cheek’ unquestionably shaped consumer perceptions of UK based rappers/MCs.
Firstly, ‘Boy In Da Corner’, Dizzee’s debut album. It came at a time whereby UK urban music was transitioning from Garage to Grime. Garage artists such as Oxide and Neutrino and So Solid Crew who had enjoyed a respectable amount of success had suddenly become irrelevant as the commercial viability of garage dissipated. This album arguably brought the UK MC back to commercial relevance. Prior to its 2003 release many of the upcoming grime MCs were very underground including Wiley the artist attributed for the development of the grime sound of the time. Drenched in Dizzee’s trademark cockney accent and distinctive voice ‘Boy In Da Corner’ showed the importance of individuality as an artist and not just jumping on band wagons because something is the ‘in thing’ such as garage for example.
‘Boy In Da Corner’ was followed by his sophomore album ‘Showtime’ in 2004. This is where doors really opened for others as Dizzee illustrated that Boy In Da Corner was no accident, and whereas the success of others before him had been short term this only raised Dizzee’s profile. Other underground artists soon hit the mainstream with Kano, Roll Deep, Est’elle (now Estelle) and Leathal Bizzle having chart albums and singles. Although Lethal B had experienced chart singles, with More Fire Crew’s ‘Oi’, and his collaborative single ‘Pow’ he was still very underground and not yet a stand out star in his own right.
Dizzee Rascal moved on from the underground sounds in exchange for ‘poppier’ dance sounds. His single 2008 single ‘Dance With Me’ with Calvin Harris carried on the transition in his sound that ‘Flex’ had started the previous year although the album ‘Tongue n’ Cheek’ wasn’t released until the following year. With acclaimed producers such as Armand van Helden, Calvin Harris and Tiesto there was no doubt that this was anything other than a pop album. Despite negative feedback from underground fans Dizzee’s album Tongue n Cheek was rated 4 stars by esteemed news papers such as The Guardian, The Times and The Telegraph, so evidently he was doing something right.
We then began to see an influx of underground artists trading in their grimey’er sounds for dance beats with notable success of the likes of Tinchy Stryder and N-Dubz. Dizzee, however, is one of the few UK urban artists to have shown true longevity. Countless acts have come and gone during his time, nevertheless the new bread of artists seem as though they may just enjoy an equally lengthy life span.