Album: Dizzee Rascal, Tongue N’ Cheek, (Dirtee Stank)

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The Independent Culture

Those two No 1 singles didn’t happenby accident. They’re evidence of one of the most enjoyable renaissances in recent pop history. After building a fearsome early-decade reputation as an insanely fast and incredibly exciting freestyler on the London underground, then blowing everyone’s minds in 2003 with the blockbusting beats of Boyin Da Corner, Dizzee Rascal took a bit of a dip, the creative nadir coming when he sampled Captain Sensible’s “Happy Talk” on a particularly poor single from his second album, Showtime.

After a three-year rethink, 2007’s Maths + English showed steady improvement, and his fourth album finds the Rascal right back at the top of his game.

Tongue N’ Cheek – the “tongue” being the tool of his trade, and “cheek” being something of which he’s showing plenty – is a record that finds Dizzee sounding so assured that even a hundred Kate Mosses running through the studio looking for lost lipstick couldn’t throw him off his stride.

One thing he’s learnt over the years is the value of a well-chosen collaboration, and the ubiquitous “Bonkers” (Armand Van Helden) and the utterly brilliant “Dance Wiv Me” (Calvin Harris) are just two examples here. Harris crops up again on the oldskool house number “Holiday” (“Don’t watch my passport photo/ I know I look a bit loco…”); Shy FX helps out with the playful dancehall of “Can’t Tek No More” (a style he also revisits on “Money Money”), which transports the mood of Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” to the highrent, high-stress setting of modern London with a swipe at US/UK imperialism along the way, and DJ Tiesto adds crazy synth-squelchesand electro-farts to “Bad Behaviour”.

There’s plenty of parent-perturbing filth: how about “Angie, she was familiar/ Got out my dick in the back of the cinema”, or “Three’s not a crowd, there’s room for another/ Her queer sister, and her lesbian lover”?

There’s also a lot of laaaid-back, PlayStationplaying, weed-smoking fun, notably on “Chillin’ Wiv Da Man Dem”, which resurrects the golden age of G-funk, transplanting Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day” from LA to E3. (There’s another nod to Cube/NWA on “Leisure”, with the words “fuck the police”.) Even his choice of samples has improved: “Dirtee Cash” samples the Stevie V classic of the almost-same name.

There is no genre of black music from the past quarter-century Dizzee Rascal isn’t confident enough to try right now, and talented enough to carry off. Tongue N’ Cheek = boy back on da top.

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