Dizzee Rascal: You Ask The Questions

Are you a product of the council estate you grew up on? And if you gave Princes William and Harry a rap lesson, what would they rap about?

Dizzee Rascal, was born Dylan Mills in Bow, east London, in 1984. He was raised by his mother, a single parent living on a council estate. Mills was expelled from four schools and, in the fifth, was excluded from every lesson apart from music. But his music teacher recognised his talent and, with his encouragement, Mills started to develop his own style of music. At 16 he self-produced his first single, "I Luv U". Two years later, he released his first album,
Boy In Da Corner, which won last year's Mercury Music Prize. He lives in London.

Dizzee Rascal, was born Dylan Mills in Bow, east London, in 1984. He was raised by his mother, a single parent living on a council estate. Mills was expelled from four schools and, in the fifth, was excluded from every lesson apart from music. But his music teacher recognised his talent and, with his encouragement, Mills started to develop his own style of music. At 16 he self-produced his first single, "I Luv U". Two years later, he released his first album, Boy In Da Corner, which won last year's Mercury Music Prize. He lives in London.

How much are you a product of the Bow estates and how can things be improved for kids growing up there?
Aisha Begum, Poplar, London

Growing up there shaped me to an extent. It makes your outlook narrower - you've got less opportunity. I don't know the answers to all the problems there, but for individuals, I'd say, "Find something that you want to do and chase it until you get it." Music was what I chased.

Do you think that Seamus Heaney was right to say that Eminem is this generation's Bob Dylan?
Sean Dolan, Killarney

No, I don't think he's this generation's Bob Dylan. I'd say Jay-Z is better - he's got a bigger back catalogue. But Eminem is definitely up there.

How did your near-death experience last year cause you to re-think your outlook on life?
Ailsa McCartney, Glasgow

Which near death experience? I've had a few - car crashes, plus a few other sticky or violent situations. The most widely known was when I was stabbed in Ayia Napa. It made me a lot more focused; it made me wake up. I'm in the pubic eye now and I don't want people to know me for being stabbed. I want people to like my music, so it made me work harder at that. Those news stories will die down; people will stop caring about them. But I don't want them to forget my music.

Are you still in touch with all your friends from before you were famous?
Catherine Everett, Oldham

Not all of them. It doesn't work like that, unfortunately. Some people are trying to find their calling in life and some people aren't - that's one reason why you don't see people as much.

What do you think Tony Blair has achieved as Prime Minister?
Leila Simon, by e-mail

Fame. I didn't vote for him the last time. I didn't vote for anyone. Vote for me, man. I'm going to run for Prime Minister. I'd campaign for more strip clubs, better take-away food and no congestion charge in London.

Are you surprised at how popular your first album was in the US, especially with the white, liberal intelligentsia?
Sandra Johnson, by e-mail

I use so many different kinds of music that you've got to expect lots of different audiences. But when I was writing Boy In Da Corner, I had a local audience in mind. On the new album, I'm talking to a global audience. I've done a lot of live shows in the past year, where you get an idea of who's listening to your music. Before Boy In Da Corner was released, I hadn't left Britain. The first time I travelled was when I went to shoot my second video in Los Angeles.

What did winning the Mercury Music Prize mean to you? And who do you think will win this year?
Natasha Smith, by e-mail

I hope Basement Jaxx will win - the little that I've heard of their music, I like. They are innovators. I was overwhelmed when I won it. It's an award that means something around the world. I keep it in my studio.

Who would you most like to be trapped in a lift with, living or dead?
Neil Durnford, London

Halle Berry. I'm going to see Catwoman - I don't care about the plot.

The Government is spending a lot of money trying to work out how to curb anti-social behaviour. Can you help them out?
Jo Green, by e-mail

My advice would be, "Show some positive news". All I see on the news is badness. I haven't seen any good news for ages. People go by what they see - it's human nature. There has to be something positive going on somewhere - it's the law of averages isn't it? Maybe then they'd stop blaming these problems on music.

Would people listen to your music if you wore tapered trousers and bad sneakers?
Clare Stokes, London

I don't know. Maybe. I've always spent a lot on clothes. In my underground days, because I'd make quite a bit of money, I'd always be buying trainers. Now I come back with big bags of them. I don't know how many I've got - they're all scattered around. I like to look good, but not to the extent that I need a stylist.

Do you think diamonds are a rapper's best friend?
Julia Morrison, Liverpool

Diamonds are not on my agenda right now. I'd put buying a house over buying a diamond any day.

And are you still a rascal?
Pete Vivian, Southampton

That's me, man. It was one of my teachers who first called me a rascal. But I didn't set out to challenge the system. On my first album, I had one line about how I was a problem for Anthony Blair. And it was really blown up in the media. I didn't consciously think, "Yeh, Tony Blair. I'm going to cause you trouble." It was just something that came out when I was rapping. I do what's good for me. Like any artist, I'm just expressing how I feel.

You've said that you'd like to give Prince Harry and Prince William a rap lesson. What do you think they would rap about?
Shona Mitchell, by e-mail

They would rap about the trials and tribulations of being royalty. There's plenty of material there. They went to Eton, didn't they? So their English skills must be amazing. I reckon they could do it.

I like your music but why are almost all your songs about you being depressed?
Sohaib Naeem, by e-mail

Are they? Which songs do you mean? I can only think of two or three tracks like that on Boy In Da Corner. But that's what people pick up on, isn't it? Everyone gets depressed. And when you're making music, you end up with a collection of all your thoughts and feelings. If I do become very successful, maybe I will start talking about things like cars, women and money in my music - I wouldn't shy away from it - but I've got a lot of other things I can rap about for now.

If you hadn't made a success of your music, what do you think you would be doing now?
Brian Grierson, Bolton

I don't know, man. I'd probably be a DJ - a drum'n'bass DJ. It would have to be something to do with music. I pushed very hard to make this a success. I'm working hard at the moment and messing around with time zones. Sometimes, I might have a day of promo and then a show in the evening. That's very different from doing pirate radio for a few hours a day. But I don't mind. I pushed and pushed and pushed for this.

Dizzee Rascal's second album, 'Showtime', is released on 6 September on XL Recordings

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