By now, Americans are used to the British singing our rock music (sometimes better). Rock has a way of diluting their cockney accent, and while still audible, it’s very faint (except for maybe Herman’s Hermits and Blur). In the end, it’s not that different from an American singing.
But in hip-hop, there is no hiding the accent. For this reason, hip-hop by Brits just did not seem plausible. And now that hip hop from across the pond has arrived, it sounds odd and out of place, not unlike the first time you heard Deborah Harry rap in a Blondie song.
Listening to rapper Dizzee Rascal for the first time is shocking. For one, he does not sound British; he has a full-on east end accent and lyrics that use all the region’s slang. But we can’t blame that strangeness solely on his accent. Dizzee sounds like he’s hiccupping over the beats, stressing syllables with a high pitched yelp.
As the initial shock over the accent fades, Dizzee’s talents surface. The heavy drum and bass make for minimal beats but powerful hit-the-dance-floor, two-step garage that the United Kingdom is famous for. Dizzee’s appearance on the latest Basement Jaxx record proves the British electronic and DJ scene has had a major impact on him. The beats on Dizzee’s “Fix Up, Look Sharp” sound like angry garbage men revolting against tin garbage cans while strategically placed “Wooos!” between crashes. “Boy in Da Corner’s,” another Dizzee album, beats remain solid over the entire album, always innovative and never cluttered. Dizzee could easily give American beat master Timbaland competition.
After the beats get stuck in your brain, Dizzee’s vocals do not seem as bizarre. His voice still makes his raps sound completely psychotic, but simultaneously reflects his desperation to escape the slums.
“Boy in Da Corner” is more than a good club album. The still-a-teenager Dizzee observes his peers heading for self destruction through drugs, money and sex. The track ‘Round We Go’ is a woozy circle of passed around lovers and inescapable exes. Even while the album is fun and more lighthearted, Dizzee always seems to be looking over his shoulder. He maintains his skepticism throughout, especially when it comes to love. The track “I Luv U” is ironic as the story is about teen pregnancy.
This album could be a warning that Americans should prepare for another British invasion.