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.