Dizzee Rascal – ‘The Fifth’

The former grime star has roped in big-name guests and producers in a bid to crack America. It's a bit rubbish

On Dylan Mills’ fifth album, he’s trying to do what UK rap has never quite managed: make it big across the pond. Artists like Professor Green, Plan B and Tinie Tempah have platinum discs aplenty from chart success at home, but none of them have been able to make a dent in America’s hip-hop forcefield. Perhaps it’s because the US has enough rappers of its own. Perhaps it’s because they don’t like British pronunciation. Or perhaps, as Plan B told NME in 2011, acts like him won’t break America because they’re “not prepared to suck cock”.

Dizzee’s previous album, 2009’s ‘Tongue N’ Cheek’, was the former grime star’s successful swipe at UK Top 40 domination. It featured a trio of Number One singles – ‘Holiday’, ‘Dance Wiv Me’ and ‘Bonkers’ – and turned their mouthpiece into a symbol of British black music and a big enough personality to perform at the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony. And, though it boasted the odd rent-a-banger by Calvin Harris (‘Dance Wiv Me’) and Tiësto (‘Bad Behaviour’), it was otherwise full of interesting ideas, with underground UK club sounds pogoing in and out. ‘The Fifth’, however, is Dizzee’s attempt to win over the States, and is as subtle as the 27-year-old bowling across the border in a T-shirt emblazoned with “Take Me I’m Yours, Blud!”

To help, it has guest appearances from Texan old guards Bun B (who also appeared on his 2007 album ‘Maths + English’) and Trae Tha Truth on Dizzee’s ode to Southern rap, ‘H Town’, plus LA studio henchmen including Lady Gaga and Madonna faves RedOne and Jean-Baptiste. Then up crops Will.i.am, who contributes to a bottle-club house track that’s as unsexy as camel toe (‘Something Really Bad’ – indeed). Elsewhere it bounds between even more commercial dance fodder and slippery-sleek Americanised urban. The potency of his rapid-fire rhymes are schmaltzed up by London singer Angel (‘Good’); and ‘We Don’t Play Around’, featuring Jessie J, is steamrolled by sledgehammer dubstep. The production is so excessive that Dizzee often seems like a guest on his own tracks, and there are further meathead blows throughout the album. “Your arse is retarded“, he raps on ‘Arse Like That’, over the kind of brash, progressive electro-house you’d need local anaesthetic to enjoy. “I am superman, bitch“, he goads on the ‘Bonkers’-emulating misogyny of ‘Superman’. And the less said about that dismal Robbie Williams song (‘Goin’ Crazy’), the better.

‘The Fifth’ is not without some glimmers of what could have been. ‘Heart Like A Warrior’ tries to bring something new to pop’s table with its low-end wobble like a cosmic didgeridoo. And for ‘Spend Some Money’ Dizzee and Tinie Tempah team up for some brutally fast flows. If only the rest of the album was as inventive, instead of a derivative box-ticking exercise that features Dizzee going on about his “willy” a lot.

Kate Hutchinson