Dizzee Rascal - Maths and English


My recent cross-country road trip rammed home one inescapable fact: the factory stereo on a 92 Escort station wagon is dirt. On those fuzzy, rattling speakers, Dizzee Rascal's new album Maths and English was unlistenable. Now, at the end of that journey, I’ve given him a second try on the hi-fi at my friend’s place and I still have no idea what’s going on.

This album’s gangsterism is descended from the same point as the bangers currently squatting on US top 40 charts, but it’s headed in a completely different direction. Although full of himself from hitting name-recognition success, DR sounds as bitter and paranoid as Howard Hughes. Weird slang and a true sense of individuality pervade. The album feels like a rough prototype of a new style, all the rough edges and bizarre unnecessary growths still attached. It’s full of vestigal organs that have yet to be evolved away, weird rough twists that will definitely keep it off the radio but make for good listening. The beats are simple, in the sense that there aren’t many layers wrapped up in each song, and inelegant. They’re also complicated by unexpected mashup oddity, sometimes laced with fast house tracks or hard rock chords that recall late-nineties rap-rock.

I’m not really in the business of judging whether music is good or bad. Most of the time I just try to describe these things. So, to get to the point, Dizzee Rascal raps with a mouthful of marbles over a thick brit accent, backed by shallow, pasted-together beats with simple, straightforward melodies. He rambles and rants and mostly stays on top of his tracks but I was left constantly guessing at what lurked around the corner. It’s crude, weird stuff. If you like noise music and outsiders and records that sound like lost demo tapes from the days before hip-hop touched on any kind of mainstream success, this is for you. If you like mainstream US hip-hop there are a few tracks that will challenge you and maybe expand your horizons, and a lot that will leave you scratching your head.

- Ben Phelps-Rohrs

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