Maths + English
The boy in da corner moves rap forward, with a little help from Alex Turner
With the grime scene less ascendant in the mainstream than it once threatened to be, Dizzee finds himself head of a decapitated scene, alienated within the consciousness of pop. So, ‘Maths + English’, his third record, has a strangely independent existence, and consequently sees Dizzee backing away from those grimey roots and producing his straightest record yet, delving into crunk, rock, drum’n’bass and pop with varying results.
On the brilliant side is ‘Where’s Da G’s’ – a slick Americanised electro banger, taking G-funk from its sloping LA roots and hotwiring it through the engine of a Baby Bentley. Elsewhere, ‘Pussyole (Old Skool)’’s sample of ‘It Takes Two’ by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock won’t win any prizes for originality, but fuck sample snobbery, it’s a dancefloor smash unlike anything else he has ever recorded. ‘Flex’ is another banger while the Arctic Monkey-sampling ‘Temptation’ brilliantly twists Alex Turner’s voice through subtle dub reverb, totally justifying the band’s appearance. Its apex though, unsurprisingly, is lead single ‘Sirens’. If ‘Fix Up Look Sharp’ inspired Jay-Z to employ Rick Rubin to build him ‘99 Problems’, then this is Rascal’s incredible response to that – a rubber bullet in the gut of dullard rap.
But it’s not all progressive. ‘Suck My Dick’ is mindlessly idiotic, Shy FX’s contribution ‘Da Feelin’’ is unforgivably naff nonsense and ‘Hard Back (Industry)’ is a bit dull.
Stage One of Dizzee Rascal’s career complete, the MC is learning to live in Stage Two, where within the post-MIA, post-Lethal Bizzle, post-grindie Britain, he must find his place again. So far, just about so good.