Friday [May 6, 2016] was one for the memory books for lovers of the Hip Hop derived genre of Grime and lovers of music in general.
For the first time in his career, Dizzee Rascal, a leader of the UK-born sound, performed his debut album, Boy in da Corner, in its entirety. Going all the way through his 2003 project to a sold out crowd ecstatically gathered at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, as part of Red Bull Music Academy’s summer series, Dizzee Rascal didn’t miss one single beat.
A yellow backdrop helped to recreate the same mood the album projected through its now-iconic cover art, as Dizzee began the night literally seated in the corner. The energy was high from the jump and continued to consistently build with each track, as the veteran emcee made his way through his catalog flawlessly with natural ease, in turn playing down the incredible vocal feat he was accomplishing. While his impeccable lyrical delivery is something that is integral to his reputation as a strong emcee, it was still an impressive spectacle experiencing the expert level of bars Dizzee spit.
His incredible performance of the 15-tracks that make up Boy in da Corner further proved that quality and influential music is timeless, serving moments equally futuristic and nostalgic. Every person in attendance was transported to Dizzee’s world and was happily in his corner, rooting for the night to last as long as possible.
Boy in da Corner has undeniably served as a vital staple to the entire grime movement, helping to give the underground-by-nature sub-genre mainstream airplay for the first time back in the early 2000s. Catapulted by the album’s commercial successes, Dizzee Rascal went on to become the UK’s first widely internationally known and recognized emcee, forever securing his place in the cultural history books. This performance acts as another accomplishment for the legendary emcee to be truly proud of.
Prior to his performance, we took a moment to catch up with Dizzee about how he prepared for the show, how pirate radio influenced his career and how he feels about revisiting his debut album 13 years later.
TheSource.com: How did this show come about where you decided to perform your debut album for the first time in full?
Dizzee Rascal: Red Bull asked me to do it about a year ago and it simply felt like the right thing to do. Williamsburg was actually the first place I ever performed in America, so it felt like it was time for things to come full circle. I’ve never done the album in full prior to this event with Red Bull. They’ve done some really cool events in the past, such as the culture clashes and I believe in what they are doing. I’m really excited to have done another show in New York, me and the city have a really good history and it’s my favorite place to perform in America.
How did you prepare for this special showcase?
I prepared by listening to the album over and over again so I can get comfortable with it, so when I come on stage, I can just shut everything down. The main thing, especially since I’m known for my performances, is getting to know the songs again really well so when I get on stage I don’t have to think about getting the lyrics out and it can be natural.
I’ve never performed the album in full, and some songs I never thought I would perform. The singles off of the album like “I Luv U” or “Fix Up, Look Sharp,” I know them through and through because I’ve performed them for years. Other songs I haven’t learned in that way since I didn’t perform them live. So that’s been the interesting part.
Reflecting on a project like Boy in da Corner, which debuted in 2003, what has it been like revisiting the album now in 2016? A bit weird, no?
Yeah, it’s been crazy. It’s been inspiring me actually. Especially with the beats because that was the album where I made most of the beats. I’m 31 now and I made that s**t when I was like 17, 18 so it’s like listening to another person. It’s mad. I never knew that it would come back around in this capacity and that people would hold it in such high regard so many years later. It’s crazy.
Do you feel as though you hold a responsibility as a pioneer helping to shape the grime genre?
I mean, I don’t want to be called a pioneer of anything, especially with something like music. It affects so many people and so many people like music. Music helps people get through their day, through their life, you know, so to have an affect on people in any way like that is incredible. I love that. I don’t feel any responsibility just because I am simply happy to perform around the world. Especially in America. So many of my influences have come from America too, especially with Hip Hop.
In what ways has radio, and more specifically pirate radio, helped your career, especially in terms of having radio as an outlet to help spread your music among the underground?
That was my only outlet at one point. That was it.
I used to go on pirate radio and that’s where I played my beats, where I emceed. We would usually do a two-hour radio set where the DJ would play some vocal tracks for half an hour, yeah? With like four emcees waiting in a row. So after everyone was warmed up, people at home listening would get ready for the s**t to go down and then like a half hour in, you’d start playing new records just like off the cuff, random ones. You didn’t ever know prior what was going to come in and then the emcees would start to jump on the beats with their lyrics.
That’s what I grew up in, that’s what made me and that was my inspiration. That’s what made me hungry, as well as introduced my music to the world. People were listening in for radio shows and then from there, you’d perform at the raves. That was my catalyst.
From radio, you’d start doing raves that were outside of London, and then you’d find your way to Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and so on, and then it became a national thing, all stemmed from radio. That’s what created the real bond. From the raves you’d have tapes and then they’d find their way back to radio. For a lot of people, those tapes from that era still mean a lot to them. Those tapes are still around. For some, people they don’t care about anything outside from after that time. They were apart of something at its birth and it will never be like that again. It all came from pirate radio.
In what ways have artists shown you how your career has influenced their own?
Stormzy has been someone that has always talked about how I’ve influenced him. He asked me to come on stage with him last year so that was a big moment for us both.
Additionally, I’ll hear my lyrics in other emcee’s songs, where they say my lyrics as a bit of a nod, kinda like how JAY Z would use lines from Biggie in his own music. There’s a lot of that that goes on.
What were you listening to during the time you created Boy in da Corner?
For me, Hip Hop and Grime is in the same family. When I first made the album, I was listening to Three 6 Mafia and trying to kind of emulate that energy in my own way, as well as Timbaland and The Neptunes. That’s the era that I’m from. It’s what I grew up listening to and what I still listen to today.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
This conversation has been an honor. I mean, this is The Source! That’s been the Bible, innit, that’s been the marker right there. I still haven’t got 5 Mics though, so I have to get to work on that. [Laughs]