Dizzee Rascal - Spin Doctor
Enjoying a massive crossover hit with Dance Wiv Me, Dizzee Rascal is an artist possessed with an ambition to craft his biggest music ever. 3D’s Cyclone caught up with the man whose love affair with Oz is set to continue at Parklife.
A year on from his last LP Dizzee Rascal has 2008's surprise hit, Dance Wiv Me, with Scottish dance merrymaker Calvin Harris and RNB newcomer Chrome. Improbable combination it may be, but Dance Wiv Me has given the MC his first UK No. 1.
“I'd always known about Calvin Harris 'cause he put out that song Acceptable In The 80s - I loved that song when it came out,” Dizzee enthuses, talking as he raps: quickly, with the occasional witticism. “I saw him at a festival in Preston [Radio 1's Big Weekend] once and we did the old ‘We should work together’ thing.”
“I'd written a song, [but] I had no music for it, so I asked him to send me a beat,” Dizzee continues. “He sent me the first one, [but] I didn't like it. He sent me another one and the feeling I got from that piece of music, it was like, Wow. It felt like the most commercial - or whitest - [song] I had, but it was funky. It was good. So we did it.”
“I didn't actually meet up with him in the studio once, everything was done by emails, sending the music and everything back and forth. We got Chrome involved - Detnon produced it as well. Then you got the end product there.”
The mystery is why Dizzee didn't save Dance for an album. “It's gonna go on the next album, and now I've got a follow-up single, so that's all good,” he reveals. “Hopefully that album should come out around March. I'm just getting onto it now.”
The East Londoner has transcended 'grime' without alienating streetwise fans. Indeed, Dizzee is moving ever closer to fulfilling his ambition to become the UK's Snoop Dogg.
Dylan Mills has journeyed far from the South Bow council estate where he grew up fatherless and fell into petty crime. He was expelled from several schools. Dizzee has had the last laugh, however. Not that he feels vindictive when encountering those who doubted him. “You just see people who have to eat a bit of humble pie,” he says of trips home. “But the best way to do it is to not rub it in their face and be even more humble about it.”
If he could go back in time, Dizzee would not live any differently. “I wouldn't change a thing. It is what it is. Obviously, whatever bad was going on, there was a load of good as well. It's just how you look back on things.
“There are people who've had worse lives than me. I've been through some situations that I wasn't sure I was gonna make it out of, but that's life, innit- It is what it is, man. You gotta fight your way through. It’s a jungle out here - don't be fooled by the concrete!”
Having blazed pirate radio, Dizzee disseminated I Luv U, centring on a couple facing an unplanned pregnancy. The teenager inked a deal with XL and unleashed Boy In Da Corner in 2003.
Thanks to Dizzee, grime infiltrated the mainstream. But when he won the Mercury Music Prize, no one was more astounded.
The MC proved his worth - and his mettle - with 2004's sequel, Showtime. Last year Dizzee dropped Maths + English, led by the metal-influenced Sirens, a sonic tribute to Public Enemy. The MC didn't rush Maths + English - he spent two and a half years on it.
The UK is troublingly fickle when it comes to 'urban' acts, yet Dizzee has reached his third album. What's more, Maths + English was again nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. (It went to Klaxons.) He received some of his most exultant reviews.
Today Dizzee is gratified by the reception. “I was really happy with the response to Maths + English, 'cause it was a step up. It was different. I think the third [album] brought me back into people taking me seriously again. It was the last album in my deal with XL over here and, with the next album, it's gonna be a continuation, just doing everything bigger.”
“The next album should make me a truly international artist, 'cause the single Dance Wiv Me has [crossed over] but, as far as an album that really transcends to everyone, I think this album will be the one.”
Dizzee has attributed his longevity to the support of the indie-rock crowd. He's putting the mosh into UK hip hop. And Dizzee is a dance star. As such, he has some unlikely industry allies. Even before hooking up with Harris, Dizzee cameoed on Basement Jaxx's Lucky Star. While Maths + English saw him vibe off Alex Turner on a reworking of Arctic Monkeys' Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend.
Along the way, Dizzee has also attracted a following in the US - but among college (or indie) kids, rather than the traditional hip hop audience.
If MIA can crack the US charts, then so can Dizzee, but he's more concerned with being a global player.
Dizzee is returning to Australia for Parklife, last appearing at Big Day Out. Fans can't get enough of him - and nor can he of Oz. “It was one of the best experiences of my life,” he says of BDO. “It was the best little tour I've done. It was mad! It was like a holiday with shows in between.”
Dizzee is industrious. He's building up his Dirtee Stank label, with Newham Generals set to air their single Head Get Mangled.
But, though Dizzee portrayed a drug dealer in the Brit gangster flick Rollin' With The Nines, he's less certain about future acting roles. “Nah, 'cause right now, I'm still trying to make my biggest album, my biggest music ever. Movies might come down the line, but not overly.”
That said, he did enjoy Rollin'. “It was like being in a music video. It's the same kind of set-up. It was only one little scene there, it was cool - it wasn't too much for me!"
WHO: Dizzee Rascal
WHAT: Plays the Metro Theatre / Parklife
WHEN: Wednesday 1 October