Top 100 Albums of the Decade: #91 Dizzee Rascal - Boy In Da Corner
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#91 Dizzee Rascal - Boy in da Corner
I remember seeing Dizzee Rascal the first time back in 2004 at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival and thinking: what's this Anglo African Hip Hop dude doing at this white, suburban, indie rock shindig? This was 2004, before genre crossovers had appeared in force, and it was hard to find much diversity in the streets and stages of Austin. (Hip Hop now, of course, has a respectably sized scene at SXSW).
Dizzee (real name: Dylan Mills) and the UK's Grime scene would be a Van Winklian revelation for the Hip Hop hostile indie press of 2004. Maybe it was the Matador branding or the Mercury prize the album brought home; maybe TV on the Radio - also breaking that spring - had made it okay for the Indie types to appreciate black performers. Not to dwell, but before Boy in Da Corner, it was difficult to imagine the shoe gaze/ math rock/ et al crowds listening to hip hop, except maybe as a watered derivative. But suddenly, there was Dizzee Rascal on stage in all his brilliance. He was the late breaking story for those that had missed and dissed the first 3 decades of Hip Hop.
The album itself introduced American audiences to the London Grime phenomena (the Eski sound of Wiley and his Roll Deep collective, which included Dizzee, hadn't reached these shores yet); fresh, driving, nuanced raps over minimalist often rock-oriented hooks (e.g., "Fix Up, Look Sharp") interspersed with tripy drill and bass synth lines. It blew your head off.
Dizzee built Boy in Da Corner on the pillars of Hip Hop, Drum and Bass, Garage, Dance Hall and Rock, and added his own unique variety of rhyme and production to the whole mix. Ultimately, he hit the sound that won over an independent nation.