Back To Bizznezz
It’s difficult to express the oddity of Lethal Bizzle’s career trajectory. Five years ago he was the leader of the More Fire Crew, at the front line of agenda-setting for British street music and transforming the glutinous All Bar One glamour of 2-step into a terrifying new punk rap.
When the group split, Bizzle maintained his role as UK rap’s Iggy Pop, by releasing the most controversial track in the genre’s history, ‘Pow!’. A song so intense DJs were banned from playing it in case black kids hearing it, er, ‘rioted’ (NB: that’s moshing to you and me and all non-racists). So to avoid any more bans, everyone from Bizzle to Dizzee to JME fled to the indie disco.
Nowadays, on planet Indie, Bizzle is ubiquitous. It seems as if the MC will champion any white boy in drainpipes in order to be accepted into what is now the epicentre of British pop music. This cross-genre pollination is risky. Consider Dee Dee Ramone, who, when his seminal punk band began to look tired, embarked on the worst rap career of all time. But, where he failed to reimagine his audience Lethal Bizzle has largely succeeded. How?
Well, rather than the music, it’s the environmental change Bizzle has inspired which holds the answer. From the perceived fascism of British police, he forged opportunity, and grime’s accidental infiltration of the indie club changed it all. From the first mash-ups and remixes of Test Icicles tracks LB has pioneered a new indie scene where he can thrive between new rave style, a multi-cultural clubbing posse and acts such as Hadouken!.
And so, with the world sufficiently altered in his image, ‘Back To Bizznizz’ has not had to pander to the rapper’s non-grime fans, too much. True, guitar heroes appear, but this is no crossover record. There are moments clearly inspired by Bizzle’s time with the punks (and his work with Gallows) most obviously on ‘Babylon’s Burning The Ghetto’ (a reworking of The Ruts’ punk standard) an angry picture of modern, war-shamed, violence-ridden Britain, on which LB spits: “Labour party’s full of shit, Cameron’s a fucking arse”, while guitars chug behind him like monsters. Less impressive is Babyshambles’ much-hyped inclusion on ‘Boy’. Pete Doherty’s involvement is restricted to a sampled vocal and guitar lick from ‘La Belle Et La Bête’. The Kate Nash-featured ‘Look What You Done’ is far better – a tale of men pissing off their girlfriends. It’s testiment to Bizzle’s vision that he finds such a comfortable corner for Nash and it’s the purity of her voice, rather than the obsurdity of her accent which is prominent next to Bizzle’s wordplay.
Frankly though, Bizzle isn’t an artist who needs to surround himself with guest stars in order to be interesting. ‘The Come Up’, with it’s ascendant horns, the party single ‘Bizzle Bizzle’ and the tuneful pop song ‘Selfridges Girl Not On MySpace’ (which is as close to a pop song as you’ll find here) are far more interesting than any of the indie-inflected efforts. Lyrically, alongside his use of grime motifs, LB is slapstick and subtle in equal measure, standing out most notably on the melancholic ‘My Eyes’ and ‘Police On My Back’, which sees him retelling a story from his past as a car thief.
Lethal Bizzle may no longer be rewriting street music for Britain, but don’t dismiss him as indie’s token MC either. This is a thrilling, occasionally brilliant debut from a man who’s doing more for the transformation of our club scene than most. This is a triumph of sorts, and we even got through that whole review without mentioning grindie.