Pop hits took him to another level, but he’ll always be a trickster at heart. 02 Academy, Sheffield, Sunday, October 25
Sometimes it’s hard to know what to think about Dizzee Rascal’s inexorable rise to fame. What, exactly, is he up to? See, for all the cringeworthy T4 On The Beach appearances and chart-straddling Calvin Harris collaborations of late, there’s still the sneaking suspicion that, really, he’s just seeing how far he can go before the plug gets pulled. Grime? In the charts? Imagine that. Still, the irony of lines such as “My legs are skinny but my wallet
ain’t thin/Every time I bust a smile it’s a big money grin” (‘Money Money’) seem to be lost on this near-capacity Academy crowd; it’s a hands-and-pints-in-the-air sort of affair and, even though it’s a Sunday night in Sheffield, Dylan Mills plus DJ Semtex have no trouble whatsoever in working them up into a state of frenzy.
It’s easy to forget for a moment when you’re listening to those pounding beats, aggressive basslines and brutal rhymes, that we haven’t been talking about an underground phenomenon for a while now, rather a bona fide pop star who has had three Number One singles in a row. Commanding the stage throughout, Dizzee’s self-assured braggadocio casts him more as a hip-hop host than the acerbic grime MC of old; “This one’s for all the sexy ladies,” he tells us before ‘Tongue N’ Cheek’ track ‘Freaky Freaky’, and the old trick of pitting one side of the crowd against the other in a cheering battle is employed before ‘Fix Up…’.
Of course, it’d be really easy to be sceptical of all this friendly, fluffy entertainment, but at a time when there’s something of a shortage of brilliant pop performers that’s precisely what Dizzee has become, whatever roots he might have. He might no longer be “A problem for Anthony Blair”, but you can bet your bottom dollar his accountant’s working all sorts of overtime.