Music Review: Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Maths & English’
For The Associated Press
Dizzee Rascal, “Maths + English” (XL/Definitive Jux)
It makes perfect sense that British grime rapper Dizzee Rascal would eventually release his stateside discs on Definitive Jux ” the New York indie hip-hop label known for artists with nearly impenetrable wordplay and caustic beats such as Company Flow, Cannibal Ox and Aesop Rock.
Since Rascal debuted in 2003 with “Boy In Da Corner,” an album full of hard truths about black Brit life over jagged-edged shards of sound, he’s hewed closer to that label’s sonic aesthetic than any other commercial U.S. hip-hop.
On his third disc, “Maths + English,” Rascal’s Brit-accented delivery still runs thick and fast but his beats are a tad less dissonant than past efforts. Whether that approach is a conscious effort to court a broader American fanbase is debatable. Granted, Lily Allen’s near-falsetto graces the hook on the deceptively peppy critique of phony hardmen, “Wanna Be.” And later on the bass-banger “Where’s Da G’s,” Rascal enlists Houston rap vets ” UGK’s Bun B and the late Pimp C ” to continue his beef against inauthentic posers. Rascal chants: “Liar, liar pants on fire/ You’re not gangsta, you’re not street/ You just make yourself sound gangsta when you’re rapping on a beat.”
Familiar hip-hop tropes notwithstanding, the disc is still not an easy listen. “Sirens” features a mishmash of apocalyptic electro-bleeps, pinging cymbals and grinding guitars, while “Suk … ” would make even the staunchest First Amendment supporter wince. And the beat of the party song “Flex” may be too skeletal to ever pack a domestic dance floor. But for hip-hop adventurists, Rascal remains Britain’s most compelling rapper.
CHECK OUT: His track with UGK, “Where’s Da G’s,” is proof that future Brit-American collaborations should be encouraged.