[CD Review] Dizzee Rascal, 'Maths + English' (Definitive Jux)

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.

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