By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The stateside release of Dizzee Rascal's 2003 album Boy in Da Corner found the grimy, reggae-influenced London rapper in a precarious spot, forced to follow fellow Brit The Streets in trying to break into the U.S. market. But whereas The Streets showcased a spoken word-like, thoughtful flow, Rascal's effort seemed the opposite, a disc filled with dirty, heavy, cold-weather beats, almost laughable rhymes and an even odder England-meets-Jamaica accent. Were it not for the enjoyable spectacle of the ordeal, it would've seemed a joke. And yet it worked, thanks in large part to the jaw-dropping "where'd they come up with this?" beats spread throughout.
At the time it seemed a raucous introduction to a bustling talent. Only not so much, it turns out. Rascal's quick follow-up, 2004's Showtime, registered nary a blip on this side of the Atlantic.
But his latest, Maths + English, seems to hark back to Rascal's promising start. "Sirens" finds Rascal sharing a modern day "Children's Story" or two, and "Where's Da G's" features Dizzee, Bun B and a posthumous Pimp C irritated by their lying, faux rap sheet-holding hip-hop colleagues. It's not all serious fare, though; "Da Feelin'" and "Flex" showcase a lighter, fun Rascal, primed for the post-apocalyptic club circuit.
Maths + English has its flaws—focusing a little too much, yes, on how much cred Rascal has (or should be seen as having)—but it mostly serves as a resounding return to form for an oddly voiced rapper.