"ABC," as the Jackson Five once put it, "it's easy as 1-2-3": Dizzee Rascal's third album, "Maths & English," is the most complete, intense and thrilling British hip-hop record ever made. Bar...
"ABC," as the Jackson Five once put it, "it's easy as 1-2-3": Dizzee Rascal's third album, "Maths & English," is the most complete, intense and thrilling British hip-hop record ever made. Bar none. From the Korn-inspired metal guitars of the barnstorming first single "Sirens," to the vivacious Bugsy Malone-inspired backchat of Lily Allen (on the irresistible "Wannabe"), every track on this album seems to find a new way of grabbing the listener's attention. But the amazing thing about "Maths & English" is the way the huge number of different styles and ideas that it showcases come together as the perfect vehicle for one man's voice.
Whether Dizzee is going mano a mano with American gangsta rap legends Bun B and Pimp C ("Where's Da G's") or paying his dues to his UK heritage by collaborating with drum and bass legend Shy FX; whether he's sampling Lyn Collins on the straightest hip-hop track he's ever done or going way out there to a Martial Arts film soundtrack of knives being sharpened ("World Outside"), it never takes more than half a bar of his raw, guttural, urgent rhyming to realise you're in the presence of the Rasket. The more musical ground he covers, the easier he seems to find it to be true to himself.
While American influences were vital to the creative evolution of "Maths & English," the album never compromises its distinctively British identity. Even when Bun B and Pimp C step up to the mic. "Those are two of the most important rappers in America, as far as the hip-hop scene is concerned," says Dizzee, proudly. "These are certified gangsta rappers. The real deal. It's not a joke... And they're on a grime tune ' respecting it, and understanding that I'm different, but in some way we come from the same place. For me, that's a real achievement for British hip hop."
Where does the album's title comes from? "It kind of sums up my philosophy of grafting," Dizzee explains. "Numbers, words: that's what I do. The writing side is the English. The notes, the beats, the deals, the money ' that's the Maths. But it's about going to school too, and how everything I've learnt since then has made me look back and reflect on that. In fact everything you're thinking, that's what it is." It's not just "Maths & English" then, but science and history and art as well: a complete education in itself.