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Dizzee Rascal, ‘Maths & English’ (Dirtee Stank/ XL)

picture-18576-1373300776Marc Hogan // July 25, 2007

London rapper/producer Dizzee Rascal went from upstart Boy in da Corner to Showtime sensation over the course of his first two albums, carrying the standard for the bellicose, breakbeat-based U.K. grime scene. Now, on new single “Sirens,” he promises to “take it back to that old-school, storytelling shit.” Slower and more predictable than its predecessors, Maths & English may have you waiting for the schoolbell to ring.

But not before a few compelling lessons. With metallic distortion, “Sirens” breathlessly recounts a panicked flight from the police. “Pussy’ole” goes older school, reshaping the Lyn Collins sample behind Rob Base’s 1988 “It Takes Two” into a sharp, fast-paced dis. Dizzee’s production palette is broader, too, as on knives-as-percussion opener “World Outside,” perhaps his best-sounding track to date.

The rest feels scattered. There’s a summer song (“Da Feelin'”), a dance song (“Flex”), an industry song (“Hard Back [Industry]”), a shoe song (“Bubbles”), an Arctic Monkeys song (“Temptation”), and a song where Lily Allen acts rude over secondhand reggae (“Wanna Be”). Texas rappers UGK appear on poseur-bashing “Where’s da G’s,” but Maths & English shies away from their legendary double-time intensity. “They’re out to get me,” Dizzee spits on “Paranoid,” actually rhyming “insane” and “brain.” The insipid chorus of “Suck My Dick” might explain everything: “I don’t give a shit who likes it,” he claims. Class dismissed.

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