September 21, 2009
Album review: Dizzee Rascal - 'Tongue N' Cheek (Dirtee Stank)
Dylan Mills’ latest reveals a cartoonish yet more controlled side to his character
7 / 10
Meet Dizzee Rascal, bona fide pop star. He might have needed leg-ups from Calvin and Armand, but scoring back-to-back Number Ones is still an achievement when the industry’s geared towards stage-school munchkins like Pixie Lott and you’re a gnarly-looking black dude from Bow with a voice like Ricky Butcher having a seizure.
Either way, it’s about time we accepted that the boy in da corner who spat paranoid rage over barrages of digital artillery fire isn’t coming back. The beats on ‘Tongue N’ Cheek’ are still raw, clamorous and unpredictable, but in a springy, primary-coloured way. If you thought Calvin Harris was a div too far, then you’re going to gag on your muesli at the news one of Dizzee’s new mates is Tiësto – not that you’d ever twig that ‘Bad Behaviour’’s wriggly bassline was the work of the Dutch trance twit.
The fame-game trade-off is that Dizzee Rascal has become a bit of a caricature. For most of ‘Tongue N’ Cheek’, he portrays himself as a clowning psycho, obsessed with cash, gash and acting flash. “My attitude’s mingin’,” he rhymes memorably, “but I couldn’t give a friggin’.”
‘Road Rage’ is particularly dumb, Dizzee threatening to put fellow motorists “in an early grave”. The brilliantly lairy ‘Money Money Money’ finds him enjoying the playboy lifestyle – “You might still catch me kicking back on a luxury cruise/With a freaky model blowing me like a didgeridoo” – and to ram the point home, on ‘Bad Behaviour’ Dizzee’s high on champers’n’coke, being noshed off in his speeding Porsche.
Dizzee is simply positioning his Slim Shady-style rapping persona further away than ever from the real Dylan Mills. Occasionally he’ll undermine his boasts, letting slip that in real life he drives a Mini Cooper, and rather sensibly invests in property (“No rims on my car, no 22s/I had a mortgage way before I turned 22”). Meanwhile, there’s just about enough coarse wit to ‘Freaky Freaky’’s catalogue of sexual conquests – “My doggystyle technique’s outstanding/ Did it in a council flat on the landing” – to save it from descending into misogynistic leering.
But ‘Tongue N’ Cheek’ isn’t all ‘Bonkers’ and bonking. ‘Can’t Tek No More’ is a tear-down-Babylon skank that finds Diz getting a bit political, while ‘Dirtee Cash’ – based on the Stevie V hip-house classic of the same name – paints a compellingly grim picture of how unchecked capitalism has impacted on his old East End manor. His conclusions might be a bit clumsy, but when he likens British international policy to “straight-up extortion” and yells “Do something ’bout it, this is important!” it sounds like a rallying cry.
Then there’s ‘Leisure’, one of the best things Dizzee’s ever done. Over a minimal, squirty beat and soft synths, he skilfully dismantles the prevailing street mentality of get rich or die trying, calling out the “hardheads, lunatics and idiots” who heap misery on their own communities and give the police another excuse to target black ghettoes.
The song also proves that Dizzee can juggle his personas, that he can act the fool without totally neutering his original raw appeal. “It’s just entertainment, I do it for the pleasure,” he reminds us. Meaning that us indie snobs might have to put up with a bit more gooning rubbish like ‘Holiday’ to get to the good stuff. And if you don’t like it? “Give my balls a tickle”. Clearly, this is exactly the kind of
pop star we need.
What do you think of the album? Let us know by posting a comment below.
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