By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
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 thoughtful, spoken-word-like flow, Rascal's effort took a seemingly opposite tack, with its dirty, heavy, cold-weather beats, almost laughable rhymes and an even odder English-meets-Jamaican accent. Were it not for the enjoyable spectacle of the ordeal, the album would've seemed like a joke. And yet it worked, thanks largely to the jaw-dropping "where'd they come up with this?" beats throughout.
At the time, Boy in Da Corner appeared to be 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 Maths + English harks back to Rascal's promising start. "Sirens" finds the MC 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—it focuses too much on how much cred Rascal has (or what he feels he should have)—but it mostly serves as a resounding return to form for an eccentric-sounding rapper.