Dizzee Rascal at the Opera House (735 Queen East), tonight (Thursday, April 28). $20. 416-466-0313. Rating: NNNNN
Dizzee Rascal may not be the sharpest MC to rip a double-time rhyme - he was recently pinched for allegedly carrying pepper spray - but he's smart enough to know that any association with a trend fabricated in the UK music press isn't a wise career move.
So while some hype-happy hacks have crowned him the "king of grime" and East London's answer to 50 Cent (hey, Dizzee got stabbed in a knife fight once), the 2003 Mercury Prize winner is wisely reluctant to accept any such narrow classification. And although he first found a voice at raves and through pirate radio, he seems bemused by the fact that professional trend-spotters like Simon Reynolds define his music in terms of UK garage.
Dizzee was much more inspired by the sound of the Dirty South. Not the Li'l Jon brand of crunk-lite, but the rougher stuff coming out of New Orleans, Houston and Memphis that preceded it.
"I was a part of that grime scene once, and I guess I'm one of the reasons for it being around but... umm... I don't do pirate radio or raves much any more," says Dizzee from Philly. "I don't wanna say I'm beyond it, but I'm further away from it. I'm just trying to make the best music I can, which is exactly what I was doing when I started.
"It wasn't 'grime' then. It's only when the media got ahold of it that it became 'grime' - you know, the dark, dirty music from the council estates. But I was listening to techno, heavy metal, drum 'n' bass and a lot of hiphop from the southern U.S. back around 1998-99. Before I did the track I Luv U, I was sampling bits from Three 6 Mafia records for my own tracks."
It was that hard-bumpin' I Luv U single - released on 2003's Boy In Da Corner (XL Recordings) disc - that impressed Beck enough to have Dizzee remix Hell Yeah. The drastically revamped track, retitled Fax Machine Anthem, appears as a bonus track on the limited-edition version of Beck's new Guero disc.
So far Dizzee hasn't observed any changes in his audiences because of the remix, though he's pleased to see more moshing at shows since the release of his bigger, bolder Showtime (XL Recordings) album.
"People seem to be feeling the new stuff. The diversity of the crowds is wicked - hiphop fans, punks and definitely a lot of metalheads in the pit.
"I used to listen to a lot of Guns N' Roses, Metallica and Rage Against the Machine. Maybe people are hearing that in my music. I'd love to collaborate with KoRn - they've got that really hard sound but with a funky hiphop feel."