XL Recordings - 2004 - 54 minutes

Dizzee Rascal's debut didn't exactly blow me away.

While most of the music press foamed at the mouth in celebration of the latest saviour of British urban music, 'Boy In Da Corner' felt like a glorified demo tape, thin, cheap and nasty and his lyrical skills seemed obvious and vaguely over-praised.

'Showtime' is Dizzee Rascal's impressively prompt follow-up album, seeing him develop that tinny racket into a more impressive sound. It's a logical progression, building on his strengths while adding variety and much-needed production values to the sound.

Now there are hints of Eastern melodies among the keyboard stabs and growling sub-bass on 'Learn' and 'Respect Me', tempo changes on 'Imagine' and 'Get By', Warp-style keyboards and oldschool electro on 'Flyin' and Graftin'.

The only hint of sell-out is 'Dreams', a track in the spirit of Jay-Z's 'Hard Knock Life', that jacks the chorus of 'Happy Talk'. But the result is a pop-rap jewel, where Dizzee provides a nice verbal counterpoint, telling the story of his early success with dexterity and humility.

This could have been so much worse. So many second albums are the result an impressionable young talent being shoved towards the mediocre mainstream by domineering record companies and managers. Instead, Dizzee Rascal is swimming steadily upstream and his production and lyrcial skills are both stronger on 'Showtime'. The album is particularly aptly-named. The rehearsal is well and truly over.

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: Showtime - Stand Up Tall - Everywhere - Graftin' - Learn - Hype Talk - Face - Respect Me - Get By - Knock Knock - Dream - Girls (featuring Marga Man) - Imagine - Flyin' - Fickle