Dizzee Rascal: Bigger And Deffer

posted May 25, 2008 12:00:00 AM CDT | 51 comments

Hip Hop fans are a fickle bunch. Its the reason almost none of our legends are still relevant, unlike other genres (see: The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Willie Nelson). Its the reason why were so concerned with which coast or city we claim. Some heads refuse to listen to music outside of their time zone let alone on the other side of the Atlantic.

With this in mind, U.K. emcee Dizzee Rascal brings to the states his critically acclaimed album Maths & English. First released in the U.K. in 2007, Maths & English combines a blend of Grime and UK Garage styles but dont get it twisted Dizzee is Hip Hop through and through.

With a distribution deal on Definitive Jux, Dizzee Rascal hopes to bring his unique take on the art form to the states. Backed by the likes of El-P and UGK, Maths & English promises to have something for everyone, even if England isnt in your time zone.

HipHopDX: Its well-established that youve been influenced by Hip Hop, Grime and UK Garage styles --
Dizzee Rascal:
Heavy Metal, too.

DX: How do these influences manifest themselves in your music, and help you develop your own unique sound?
It gives me the ability to create a bigger picture with the wholeness of music; it doesnt limit me to just one sound. Like the song Sirens on my album its got a really heavy rock sound. A part of it was inspired by Korns Here to Stay. If I didnt know about Korn, Sirens" wouldnt have been created.

DX: Your album Maths & English features a wide range of subject matter, ranging from dark social commentary to lighthearted tracks like Wanna Be with Lily Allen. Is it difficult to get yourself in a mind state that you can go back and forth along that spectrum in a single album?
It can be hard to get into a place to make it sound good [and not] sound pretentious as shit. Its also a reflection of my personality. I try to put out as much as possible.

DX: So youre trying to show people the full range of what it is thats in your head.

DX: El-P was quoted as having said, As big as [Dizzee Rascal] is overseas, hes never really had as much of a chance to get out there in the U.S. Why do you think that is?
Part of it was, maybe, because I was on a rock label or indie rock label. That was cool, but now Ive been given a chance to fuckin get pushed to a Hip Hop audience because whatever other influences I have in my music, I am Hip Hop. I wasnt getting pushed to Hip Hop fans I think thats a big part of it.

DX: Do you think Hip Hop audiences are naturally fickle in that if they see that someones on a Rock label, theyll instantly say, Oh, I dont want to listen to this?
DR: Not necessarily; but if youre on a rock label, they might not even see it. Like, something coming out of Def Jam Im a Hip Hop fan, I might know about it. Some people might not know about record labels or care about them; they just listen to the radio or whatever. But if youre a Hip Hop fan, youre not necessarily going to know somethings coming out on an indie rock label.

DX: So it mightve been that you didnt get the proper push?
DR: I think the label I was with did as much as they could, and I think they did a quite a good job; but on the second album, I dont think they did [quite as good a job].

DX: Youre touring with El-P and Def Jux is releasing Maths & English in the U.S. Can you elaborate further on your relationship with Def Jux?
I only just signed with them. I only just met them recently. Things are moving pretty fast.

DX: So youre officially signed with them?
DR: Yeah, we finished one album. Ill be touring with them in May.


DX: Many American Hip Hop fans know of your music through your relationship with UGK what can you say about your experiences with them, and how that lead to your appearance on [UGKs] Underground Kingz and in turn their appearance on your album?
I met Bun B at South by Southwest a few years ago. We kinda clicked from there. Last year or the year before, we were both working on our albums. Bun asked me to feature on the song with him and Pimp [C] called Two Types of Bitches, and in return I asked him to be on Wheres Da Gs. I sent him the beat, and he said he could get Pimp on it as well and it went from there. But Ive known Bun B for years. We had done a song years ago; hes just someone I really click with.

DX: Are there any other American artists youve gotten to know, or hope to work with in the future?
DR: Yeah, lots. Ive [opened] for Justin Timberlake, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sean Paul, Jay-Z, Ive performed with Nas, Ive performed with N.E.R.D the list goes on.

DX: Going back to your upcoming tour, did that come about as a natural progression from your partnership with Def Jux?
It just happened. I was eventually going to do a tour in America, but it makes sense to do a tour with someone like El-P, and getting that exposure and that audience. You should come!

DX: Sounds good, man. Is this the biggest tour youve done in the U.S.?
No, Ive done a five-week tour in 2004.

DX: Was that just you, or other people as well?
DR: That was my own tour. As far as the biggest tour Ive done, it was either the Red Hot Chili Peppers tour in Europe or the Justin Timberlake tour in England.

DX: Is the U.S. release of Maths & English the same as the U.K.?
Nah, theres a few more tracks on this one. Theres a track called Ghetto, and another one called G.H.E.T.T.O, another one called Driving, and then theres a remix to Wheres Da Gs that El-Ps done.

DX: Using your music video for Sirens as an example, do you feel symbolism such as the fox hunters may be lost on those not familiar with the UK culture?
Theres bound to be. But anyone with half a brain is gonna know [Sirens] is about society people at the top and people at the bottom, its basically [about] how it works.

DX: So you feel that regardless of the context of the culture overseas, your music should be able to reach most audiences.
DR: Yeah. Because, at the end of the day, you might not know too much about England but if Im saying something that you feel inside of you, it doesnt matter where Im from.

DX: What is the most important thing for American audiences to take from your music?
Fun. And, uh, fulfillment. When you hear my music, you should feel good about yourself. You should be able to carry on with your day. You should feel inspired to do something good.

DX: In your song Da Feelin, you say I don't believe in fate/Life is what you make it
- make it great. Yeah. Cause whats fate if you dont get up off your ass and do something about it? Fate is just a load of could-bes and should-bes.

DX: Does that mean to you that success is what you make of it and if so, what is success to you?
Success is whatever you set out to do, and hopefully you get closer and closer to achieving it. I suppose success is when other people look at you as successful.

DX: What would make you consider yourself successful with this album release.
DR: One if its considered a classic album, which I hope it is; and two loads of people really like it, and get into me as an artist.

DX: Are album sales a concern?
DR: I dont know what to expect. The music industry is just going up and down, up and down. So you know what? Im just thankful I get to sell music, and that people give a shit. Ive made money. I didnt set out to make money in the beginning I just made loads of money, and I was lucky and fortunate enough that people liked my music and were paying me for it. Whatever is meant to be will be.

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