As is the case with any musician who garners critical acclaim with his first album, the real test of credibility and longevity comes with the release of the second. British rapper Dizzee Rascal may have been presented with an impossible task with trying to one up his debut Boy in Da Corner. Recipient of the coveted Mercury Prize in England and showered with accolades the world round, Dizzee has been heralded the savior of hip-hop by the indie media at large. So can a kid who can’t even drink legally in the U.S. yet live up to the hype? You betcha.
Where Boy in Da Corner was a spastic rapid fire blitzkrieg of garage-like beats and often undecipherable lyrics, Showtime is a more calculated and focused album reflecting not only the maturation of Dizzee, but also his new access to better beat building programs and recording technology. As Rascal himself states, he poured his heart into the first album and his soul into the second. I couldn’t have put it better myself. Showtime showcases Dizzee as a rapper now more comfortable and at ease with his unique rhyme and beat style. Instead of letting the pressure of the press get to him, he is less concerned with trying to sound original as he is in being original. Though several of his homeland contemporaries like Wiley and the So Solid Crew have gotten more exposure as a result of Boy, Dizzee proves that he is the genuine article and can claim the crown as the current king of British hip hop (sorry Streets, this is the real shit!).
After the obligatory intro type track, Dizzee kicks his sophomore effort off with a bang on the track “Stand Up Tall,” an upbeat dance track laced with varying degrees of electro blips and bleeps that sound more like the soundtrack to a Nintendo game than the beat to a hip-hop song. While decrying other London rappers who embraced the post-Biggie hip-hop mentality of jewels and flashy clothes by wearing “Chinese zoots,” Dizzee gives props to his peers across the U.K and the U.S., encouraging them to get up and do something for themselves.
On the track “Everywhere” Rascal pays homage to the old school by slowing down his flow just a bit to remind the listener of what hip-hop used to sound like, albeit done by an Englishman with a semi dancehall rhyme style. Backed by a simple and almost tribal back beat, he drops rhymes reminiscent of such luminaries as Doug E. Fresh and fellow Brit Slick Rick: “They aint ready yet/ I don’t claim a set/ but if you test I’ll leave you with something you will regret/ I’m 5’10 slim/ chocolate skin/ I’ll punch you in your nostrils, I’ll cut you in your chin/ But I aint mad, I’m a lovely lad/ I’ll give you the loveliest beating that you’ve ever had!” Just more proof that Dizzee is as capable of a lyricist as he is beat maker and club instigator.
Surviving the hype seems often times to be the hardest part for an emerging artist, and with Showtime Dizzee Rascal has emerged unscathed and swinging harder than ever. With the exception of the horrible R & B singing on the track “Get By,” everything else on this album is nearly flawless. An album that should appease both indie and commercial hip hop heads alike, while at the same time converting the haters who didn’t get Boy in Da Corner.
Wiley – Treddin’ on Thin Ice
Dizzee Rascal – Boy in Da’ Corner
Three Six Mafia – When the Smoke Clears