Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dizzee Rascal - Maths and English

When I first started hearing about the Grime scene jumping off in England, I was pretty intrigued. I was just a little too late for the Grandmaster Flash O.G. era of hip-hop and the prospect of getting in on the ground floor of a movement that took the blueprints of hip-hop but spun it with an electro-dancehall edge was pretty appealing, if only to be able to understand the lyrics, but when I checked out So Solid Crew and the other big names in the scene, it was a different story. I enjoyed the idea of the mash-ups and cockney-flavored rhyming, but the reality didn't gel for me at all. I eagerly dove back into my Slick Rick and Derek B records and never looked back. Soon afterward The Streets and Vice Records came on the scene and it was Goodnight Irene for this asshole. The Streets was/is definitely talented, but I'd rather sit in on a Matt and Kim demo session than suffer through his Vice-fostered nightmare crowd for longer than ten minutes. 

A couple months ago I happened to see the video for Where's Da G's? on Video Music Box. Inexplicably, it paired Dizzee Rascal with Port Arthur, TX O.G.s UGK. It took me three or more times of peripheral exposure before I listened to it without muting, but I've been on a Bun B kick as of late and I love how U.G.K lambastes all the fake crack-dealer rappers out in the South, so I ended up saving the video on DVR and watching it bunch while I tried to scam a copy of the record.  Around that time, the video for Pussyole (Old School) started get played a lot on the public-access hip-hop shows. The song had some serious Bomb Squad chaos going on, pairing 808 drums with the same sample from Think that drove Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock's It Takes Two to make a track that is a fucking banger regardless of it's country of origin.

Maths and English came into my hands soon after that. Evidently Maths refers to the technical aspects of making a record, while English is his homage to lyric writing and MCing. While I'm sure Mr. Rascal is not crawling with A-Level accreditations, he gets high marks on both parts here. As luck would have it, I ended up the UK import version on XL. It's been licensed by Def Jux for the States, but the US release does not feature the aforementioned Pussyole (Old School), no doubt due to sample clearance issues state-side. It does, however, feature two new songs and an El-P remix of Where's Da G's. If you're intrigued, buy the official release here. If you get a promo, safe money is on it having an Def Jux audio watermark that pops up every ten or fifteen seconds and makes it totally unlistenable. And El-P thinks it's just his bad attitude that sours his relations with the critics. I believe you can get Pussyole on UK I-tunes anyway. It's probably the best amalgamation of US and UK hip-hop thus far. I'm kind of hit or miss when it comes to Def Jux releases, but I'd prefer to see them fostering Maths and English to the masses over Matador or Vice.

Def Jux is really expanding Dizzee's profile in the States. If his US management has any sense, they will get Dizzee on some mixtapes and radio shows and get him out there to the hip-hop tastemakers. He can rhyme and has a unique voice. It was interesting to hear him paired with UGK; his voice fits exactly in the range between Bun's baritone and Pimp C's tenor. It is just nasal and Island enough to be intriguing while maintaining an US flow. American concessions aside, his UK roots are well-represented beat-wise and with the high-profile guest shots from Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys and ska-jocker Lily Allen. Maths and English only came out in the States in April, but has been out for about a year overseas, peaking at number 7 on the UK charts. Hopefully Dizzee Rascal gets a foothold state-side and we hear more of him on this side of the Pond. While we're waiting for the test scores, check the links below.

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