Dylan Mills, aka MC Dizzee Rascal, 19, is hot property, with critics lining up to heap praise on his debut album Boy In Da Corner. A gritty, dark and demanding journey through the streets of East London, it is nominated for this year's Mercury Music Prize.
Where did the name Dizzee Rascal come from?
I used to be just called Dizzee. Then a teacher at school described me as a rascal for messing around. I tried telling everybody my name's Rascal now, innit. But people kept calling me Dizzee, so I just put the two together.
Your sound flies in the face of American hip-hop, garage and R&B. Do you think it marks the start of something new?
It's the next step, like garage was a couple of years ago. "Grimy garage" is what people are calling it, but the only way it's like garage is the tempo. They haven't worked out a name yet, but there's a whole scene developing. The kids making the tunes have worked out it's time for a change.
Have you been surprised by how much attention Boy In Da Corner has received?
Yeah man. It's all positive. I don't know why people have become so interested. The music's quite uncompromising and so English. I think that's the main thing. A lot of people live it [street life] and I don't think they've been represented correctly up until now. You only see the hype side of things, the bling bling side, but it isn't all about that. Also, I chose what I said carefully so it could be accessible to audiences beyond street people. I want everyone from the punk to the person into classical music to the indie rocker to get into it.
Do you worry about losing touch with your roots - is it still possible to "socialise in Hackney and Bow" wearing your "trousers ridiculously low"?
Yes, I am a bit more distanced. But it's not a scared thing. I've got business to handle. I haven't got time to know what's going on on the street all the time. I don't have to stay in the ghetto just so I can keep saying "I'm ghetto". All that bull shit about struggling along - who wants to struggle man? Being successful is a bigger struggle than being stuck in the ghetto.
As an MC you describe what you see around you - do you think you have a responsibility to say things like "guns are bad"?
That's what the police are supposed to do. I ain't got no responsibility. I don't want to be some role model. I'd rather be an inspiration. People choose what they want to do. My responsibility was to choose music as my life and do what I gotta do to survive and make money. I'm from a background where I've seen certain things. I'm not a gangster. I don't promote violence. I'll just show you what it's about.
When you rhyme about things like "shotters" [drug dealers], lots of people don't know what you're talking about - do you think a generation gap has opened up?
Yeah, there's a lot of people that don't know. Most people are taken by American slang when they watch TV. I think now people are clocking that they've got their own life here, that's not the same as America and that it's acceptable to be English. My favourite slang word? "Nang". It means heavy, safe, basically, very good.
Who are your heroes?
"Jay-Z and Tupac, but he's dead, innit. How far can you go with that really?
Mike Skinner of The Streets described you as "the future" - who's next?
You know what, I don't know. At the moment I'm feeling Terri Walker. She's a heavy singer - the closest thing to Mary J [Blige] we've got.
The single 'Fix Up, Look Sharp' is released on 18 Aug through Dirtee Stank/ XL RecordingsReuse content