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Wednesday, July 30, 2003
  I'M SO DIZZEE

WARNING: extremely ill-informed opinions ahoy...

OK blundering into the fray several months late, prepare yerselves for It's All In The Mind's forthcoming response to 'Boy In Da Corner.' An intial response: Holy. Fucking. Shit. An apocalypse of sound. Giant robots at war in council estate playgrounds. Without wanting to get dragged too far into the 'is it hip hop?' debate over at ILM, I have to admit as a complete stranger to garage/grime/etc the comparison I can't help making over and over in my head is Wu-Tang. Not in the corny 'ooh it's quite dark isn't it?' sense, you know, the way that any vaguely menacing music involving beats and rhymes gets compared to Wu-Tang. No; I mean more in the sense of the creation of a sonic reality. Dizzee is inventing/recreating the world around him through sound, generating a sonic image of 'East London' just as effectively and compellingly as Wu-Tang do for 'Staten Island.' Oh yeah, plus he's clearly the English Ghostface, that's the other thing :-)

Anyway another point I want to quickly chime in on is that raised by k-punk, in response to these comments at Auspicious Fish, re: the response of the straight-up hip hop heads to Dizzee. Nick's 17-year old hip hop fan thinks Dizzee is shit. Not a surprise: the letters page of 'Hip Hop Connection' was full of similarly enraged/un-comprehending reactions when they gave 'I Luv U' single of the month a while back. (and of course exactly the same thing happened when they put Oxide & Neutrino on the cover ages ago.)

Right, this is the problem I think: calling Dizzee 'hip hop' is such a selling-short of where he's coming from that it's not necessarily the most useful descriptor. It just presumes too much musical/cultural baggage that, when applied to his music by yer average hip hop fan, is going to lead to inevitable disappointment. HOWEVER the instant reflex-defence of Dizzee's UK defenders: 'it's not hip hop! don't you dare call it hip hop!' is equally unsatisfactory. To pretend he isn't immersed in and indebted to US rap is disingenuous to say the least (and am I imagining it or is that a Biggie allusion when he rhymes 'kick in yer door/i ain't got a .44'???!!!). So, yeah: don't call it hip hop. But don't deny it's there! Especially if you're trying to sell this to a dyed-in-the-wool 17 year old M.O.P. fan. Tell them not to listen to just the rhymes, not to just the beats, but to the sound, man.

Anyway, the bigger issue here is clearly the innate reactionary conservatism of so many hip hop fans, funnily enough an impulse often found strongest in those furthest away from the realities of hip hop as a culture. OK this is an unfair generalisation, but you know what I mean: those letters in Hip Hop Connection weren't considered responses to a strange record, they were evidence of ears snapping shut the minute something unusual and foreign was heard. It's basically no more than 'Garage (or 'gay-rage' as one of my enlightened hip hop friends calls it) Sucks! All of it!' Anyway, to put a long post out of its misery, what I'm saying is: yes it's amusing and telling that Dizzee has vocal support from middle-aged rock journalists and little-to-none from teenage rap fans, but I kind of think this division says more about ways of listening than about Dizzee's merits as a rapper/producer...
 
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