Dark, dark, dark … the UK has gotten really strange. The ominous opening seconds of Dizzee Rascal’s Boy in da Corner merely scrape the surface of this diversion into bleak British hysteria. While the musical landscape is clearly urban, as presented in Dizzee’s narrative verse, the backdrop is electronic gloom characterized by bass-heavy unsteady beats. These are very “now” themes in Dizzee’s lyrics, but the sounds are so cold and detached it’s as if he wanted to score a Philip K. Dick story or update the existing electronic mess that illustrates A Clockwork Orange.
Dizzee discusses what he calls “the same old story” in “Sittin’ Here,” the album’s lead-off number. Perhaps he chooses this phrase as to avoid an air of pretentiousness, but the track is not “the same” or “old” by any stretch. The beat here is immediately typified by a looped reverb keyboard melody and two-step drums. This gloom doesn’t make a brief appearance; it establishes residence and lingers throughout. He talks of “shutters, runners, cats and money stacks” in the chorus, sharing London’s underbelly with the masses. There are police sirens occasionally filtering in and out and snippets of vocals behind his own, but he still sounds detached and alone, people-watching and fending off bothersome cops on their street beats.
He subscribes to complex rhyme scheme in “students truant” and “learn the streets fluent,” but his admittedly nervous condition comes across not only in his lyrics (“and I keep myself from bawling but my eyes they erupt”) but also in his constant prepubescent voice cracks. The duality is in his ability to sound inexperienced and insecure and his confident grip on the English lexicon. The gloomy beats follow him even in a twisted tale of chasing women, being chased and the perils of infidelity on the third track, “I Luv U.” On the surface, “I Luv U” is perhaps the only deceptively silly-sounding track. It features a faux-argument with young unnamed woman while Dizzee spits verse about unplanned pregnancy and oral sex. Craziness, man.
He cribs the classic “Sucker MC’s” beat for “Fix up, Look Sharp,” a name-check number and a fine forum for “flushin’ emcees down the loo.” This may be his only Americanized trait, the keen knack for dissin’ his peers, that is. As far as the rest goes, he’s as Brit as Jimmy the Mod, sans the pills, tight knickers and fruit juice. Boy in da Corner is not easily accessible: the combination of his rapid delivery and cockney accent almost entirely obscures Dizzee’s every word but makes for an all the more exciting record.
It’s just too dark for sharing with anyone else, though; this is truly for “alone time.” It’s layered with darkness, from the dizzying (I had to) verse to the murky dance beats. He’s got a bloody lot to say, it’s just a little tough at times deciphering what the devil it is.