Dizzee Rascal Album Review

3 11 2009

Late last summer I was sent down to Malmaison to meet up with Dizzee Rascal. He was an interesting dude and the kind of bloke who seemed like he might be a good laugh if he got over himself a little bit. We also had a playback of his new record ‘Tongue ‘N’ Cheek’ (which his tour manager insisted on playing at the loudest volume possible) and I looked after the lead review for Hot Press as well as the interview. It’s a fun record and as one of his tracks came on the radio there now, I thought I’d post up the original transcript…

Dizzee Rascal

Tongue ‘N’ Cheek (Dirtee Stank)

Three and a half out of five

For far too long, Dizzee Rascal’s name and reputation has overshadowed his music. At this stage we all know he’s a “respected UK rapper” and Lily Allen loves him so much she called her song ‘LDN’ in tribute to his lyrics, but beyond that, most people knew him as that bloke who had the creepy puppets in his video for the Captain Sensible sampling single ‘Dream,’ and that was pretty much it. But this year all that changed-specifically with his Calvin Harris produced track ‘Dance Wiv Me.’ Dizzee finally crafted a tune that lived up to his reputation and what a song it was. Full of inventive hooks and some truly impressive mic skills, it quite rightly put the MC at the top of the heap, and that was just the first single.

Shortly after that he released ‘Bonkers’ and ‘Holiday’ in close succession and they too were just as catchy, just as imaginative and just as good, if not better, than their predecessor. So, now that we have the album to listen to you’d be forgiven for thinking that the only thing of worth are the three singles. We say you’d be forgiven, but you’d also be wrong. You see Tongue ‘N’ Cheek is a tour de force in future sounds. Over the course of 11 tracks Dizzee stitches together dancehall, reggae, 90s techno, hip hop and pop Frankenstein-style and nine times out of ten it works really well.

Opening the album with ‘Bonkers’ Tongue ‘N’ Cheek starts off strong, with some fast-paced rhyming and excellent production by Armand Van Helden. Second song ‘Road Rage’ has a Bollywood vibe and is sure to be another hit single. Speaking of hits, the aforementioned ‘Dance Wiv Me’ is track three and if you haven’t heard it yet then we truly feel sorry for you. Next up is one of the most controversial yet catchy songs on the slab of wax ‘Freaky Freaky.’ Featuring the classic line “She’s always up for a bonking,” Dizzee’s word-play is phenomenal, even if his rampant sexism leaves a little to be desired. ‘Can’t Tek Me No More’ might continue the theme of atrocious spelling and grammar, but stylistically it goes somewhere else entirely-employing a dancehall beat courtesy of longtime collaborator Shy FX. ‘Chillin’ Wiv Da Man Dem’ is one of the few turkeys to be found on Tongue ‘N’ Cheek with its slow pace feeling a little too restrained after what’s come before.

By the second half of the record, it’s all change again though and ‘Dirtee Cash’ harks back to the era of the Shamen, KLF and people on E blowing whistles for no apparent reason. Sampling the Adventures of Stevie V’s classic cut ‘Money Talks (Dirty Cash)’ the song gives ‘Dance Wiv Me’ a run for its money. Both ‘Money Money Money’ and ‘Leisure’ let the side down a little though and they don’t shine quite as brightly as other tracks, (the boasting on ‘Money Money Money’ in particular gets a little tiresome and we’re left thinking of images of the rapper swimming around in a giant pool of cash just like Scrooge McDuck-which is as bizarre as it sounds) but ‘Holiday’ and the techno-influenced album closer ‘Bad Behaviour’ make you forget all that quickly enough.

At its best, Tongue ‘N’ Cheek is the album that Dizzee Rascal was born to make. It’s upbeat, uplifting and one of the best produced pop albums of the year. At its worst, the blatant sexism and copious references to his prowess at “baby making” are as big and clever as a dwarf who was held back a few years at school. Still, for all its faults, Tongue ‘N’ Cheek is a pretty special record and should be filed under “G” for guilty pleasure.

Key Track: ‘Dirtee Cash’

Edwin McFee