Review: Dizzee Rascal ‘Boy in Da Corner’, Stratford
When Redbull announced that Dizzee Rascal would be performing the whole of his 2003 debut album Boy In Da Corner in a secret location, it was clear the gig would be more than just a concert. It was a homecoming for East London’s biggest export. The revealed venue was in Bow at the Olympic Park’s Copper Box Arena, just a stone’s throw away from where the grime artist grew up. The excitement from music fans young and old was insatiable; for the old guard it was a chance to witness an album that had been nothing short of seminal played out live, and for the new generation it was more than relatable as in truth, the musical mastermind was far ahead of its time.
The crowd were sharply dressed and eager to witness what would unfold. Upon arriving, sheer earth-trembling bass could be heard outside the stadium walls, and minds were eased as any worries about the sound floated away. Dizzee’s (real name Dylan Mills) old partner in crime, Slimzee was warming up the crowd with a wobbly grime set fitting of the pair’s Sidewinder days back in the early 2000’s. Instrumentals from Pulse X, Wiley‘s ‘Eskimo’ and ‘Oi’ by More Fire Crew rung out, providing a fitting, street level warm up to the rowdy crowd. From an elevated position above, it was quite a sight to view the sea of bodies surge forward in anticipation as Slim played his last tune and the stadium plunged into darkness.
After a good minute or two of silence (sleekly designed to generate eagerness and pointed attention towards the opening sequence) a series of interviews with industry heads and fans came through the speakers, broadcasting what the album meant to them and where they first heard Dizzee’s bars. Then silence. The lights shot up to rapturous applause revealing a neon yellow, larger-than-life replica of the album cover with Mills hunched in the corner, microphone in hand reciting ‘Sittin’ Here’, a sobering and impressive entrance.
Aside from a one-off performance in New York, many of these undiluted beats had never been heard on stage. Dizzee’s voice has changed over time but his articulation and rasping, punchy style still proved dominant in every bar he spat. Although surprisingly shy and humble in most of the interviews he has given over the years, he has incredible stage presence and captivates his audience. His words possess an intensity that has barely been rivalled in the last thirteen years since the album appeared, and the arrival of grime has reached the mainstream. Lyrics that appeared in his early rap clashes and then later when he was accompanied by his Roll Deep crew, with Wiley etc in tow became part of the make up of his platinum selling album. And you can see why.
He’s got a Nokia, take that (what)/Big mouth, loud mouth, take that what (what)
Chuckin’ MCs like stones/ Bad boy forever like Sean Puffy Combs
‘Stop Dat’ is raw energy and sends prickles down your back as you can’t fail but to feel hyped. It showed in the front few rows at the Copper Box! They are aggressive and antagonistic, an insight into his childhood environment on the Bow estate. As he has previously stated, being raised without a father has entitled him to grow cold and hard. Other hits like ‘Fix Up, Look Sharp’ and ‘I Luv U’ possess more playful and taunting lyrics; “Be serious you wouldn’t last an hour in my shoe/ It’s an Air Force One/ trainers by the truck load, trainers by the ton” and “You better look after your girl/ or I might take your girl and make your girl my girl”. Dizzee is confident, unfazed by any competition and having a laugh to himself. The end result is majestic and effortless; to see him perform so clinically, without missing a word after thirteen years was an absolute pleasure and an hour shot past.
By the time he reached ‘Jezebel’ towards the end of the set, the crowd were flying. Everyone was bouncing around like a lunatic and the atmosphere in the arena was ecstatic. Cups of beer were flying everywhere, gun fingers were high in the air and you forgot it had to end. ‘Live O’ rung out gloriously before Dizzee sent a humble message to the crowd, thanking them for their support. After all, the concert had only come about because 1,500 people had signed a petition to get the album performed on British soil, as it had in NYC; a clear indication of his popularity. He rounded off with ‘Do It’ before shutting down the lights and disappearing as suddenly as he had entered. There was obviously no opportunity for an encore, no bonus track to call upon. It was as if the audience breathed a huge sigh in unison.
They had witnessed something special that evening and assisted by his loyal DJ MK, and hype-man Bigman Scope it had been a classy affair; meticulously tight and flawless. Credit must go to Redbull for playing host and not abstaining on the production. All expectations had been met and without doubt everyone in attendance; fans, fellow artists and industry people alike would have left thinking – yeah, he’s still got it.