XL Recordings - 2003 - 57 minutes
British hip-hop has been waiting for its wonder kid for a long time now. Mike Skinner was too white, Roots Manuva too weird, Ms Dynamite too safe, and the rest were too second-rate. So when Dylan Mills (AKA Dizzee Rascal) pitched up, straight from the schoolyards of the East End, eighteen years old and bristling with attitude, the critics and the fans fell to their knees and hailed him as the Messiah.
He certainly looks credible, every inch the mobile-snatching trackie from the estate so its easy to see why he's been afforded such a positive reception from a music press that are desperate for a UK rapper with an edgy persona. Previous candidates Oxide & Neutrino might have qualified on the basis of their peripheral involvement in gunplay and generally poor behaviour, but were so laughably bad as rappers that few took them seriously.
Dizzee Rascal takes care of production on 'Boy In Da Corner' and his inexperience shows in its ropey, rough and tinny sound. But there is a blinding energy similar to the best qualities of 80s rap. The pounding percussion and rock guitar of standout track 'Fix Up, Look Sharp' recalls Run DMC's classic Def Jam releases. 'Jezebel' takes a more melodic stance, and that nasty fuzzy bass of 'Seems 2 Be' will have the electro heads nodding. It's a low-fi cocktail of sub-Warp bleeping and 80s-style loops that grows on repeated listening, but unfortunately, the record frequently collapses into a musical mess.
Rascal's squeaky rap style isn't going to appeal to everyone. Lyrically, he's a bad-ass youth, who speaks the truth, etc, etc. Quite why everyone is falling over themselves to hail his genius is beyond me, but he does have a passable flow and a good presence on the mike. He should improve, and has a bright future ahead, if he stays out of trouble. That might not be as easy as it sounds.
Tracklisting: Sittin' Here - Stop Dat - I Luv U - Brand New Day - 2 Far (featuring Wiley) - Fix Up, Look Sharp - Cut 'Em Off - Hold Ya Mouf (featuring God's Gift) - Round We Go (Ain't No Love) - Jus' A Rascal - Wot U On? - Jezebel - Seems 2 Be - Live O - Do It