No, Dizzee, too soon. The other MC’s …
they’re still waking up in cold sweats. The beatheads are
still running around the village green screaming at Billy Squier,
god of the big-beat sample. The major-label bidding wasn’t
started. Hell, you haven’t even waited long enough for other
beat-makers to copy your infectious, minimal two-step madness.
These things run in cycles, Dizzee, and you’re throwing
everyone off. It’s far, far too early for a sophomore
Of course, Dizzee wasn’t listening, but no one was
talking, either. Music fans circle calendar dates and hit the
message boards months in advance of an album’s release.
It’s rare, then, that an album can sneak up on people, and
the surprise of a new full-length can outweigh concerns about a
rushed product or a quick cash-in.
Dizzee Rascal’s debut album, Boy In Da Corner, was
such an awakening for American hip-hop fans that its luster has
dimmed even slightly since its release. There are concerns then,
that Dizzee could taint an extremely promising career by releasing
Showtime, his second album (released just seven months after
Boy in the U.S.), too soon.
The decision, however, is not as rushed as it must seem to
American heads. Boy, after all, was released in England for
several months before super-indie Matador Records brought it to
Domestic shores in February. On top of that, some of
Boy’s best songs were birthed when Dizzee was merely
sixteen years old.
In Dizz’s world, then, it’s high time for some new
material, and Showtime delivers just that, simultaneously
extracting Dizzee’s wild, garbled flow from his earlier work
and giving it room to grow inside a box of buzzes and beeps that
both draw from Boy’s videogame sugar rush and expand
Boy In Da Corner was one of the most cohesive hip-hop
albums in recent memory, and while this is truly a testament to
Dizzee’s unique style, it is also partially due to the
somewhat homogenous beats on the album. Showtime has no such
problem, moving from bass-heavy rumbles to eastern-tinged
experimentation. But, what the album forfeits in unity, it more
than makes up for in listenability and diversity.
“Learn” opens with a finely plucked acoustic guitar
before blowing full-force into compact snare hits and synth pulses.
“Respect Me,” one of the album’s best tracks, is
anchored by a rumbling bass that sounds like it stumbled out of one
of Mordor’s swankest dance clubs. On “Respect
Me,” Dizzee also reclaims his throne as rap’s
least-impressive braggart. During the chorus, he chants “You
people are gonna respect me / got to make you respect me / you
people are going to respect me / if it keeeels you.” The
boast sounds like typical rap warfare, but coming from Dizz’s
tongue, it sounds more like an internal conversation. He’s
not lambasting anyone as much as scolding himself, trying to
convince, through repetition, that yes, you will respect him.
Though Dizzee’s convoluted flow and heavy accent garnered
him the majority of his early press, it’s clear on
Showtime that it’s his bipolar demeanor —
alternately boastful and cripplingly self-doubting — that
sets Dizz apart from mainstream rappers. From being totally content
with his 100,000 album sales to fighting with club bouncers to get
into his own show, Dizzee is one of the most psychologically
interesting MC’s in years. His quest for peace of mind is at
least as apparent as his quest for cash, girls and respect, and
this alone makes him an interesting, relevant hip-hop artist. That
he’s just released his second unique, fully realized album in
as many years is just icing on the cake.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars