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Artists to Watch: Dizzee Rascal

Summer 2003 was man time for Dizzee Rascal. On July 7, hours beforea show in the Mediterranean resort of Ayia Napa, the MC/producer/DJfrom East London’s blighted projects was stabbed six times(arrest warrants were issued for two associates of beef-sizzlinggarage-rap posse So Solid Crew). On July 21, his debut album,Boy in Da Corner, was released in the U.K.; on September 9,the album won the prestigious Mercury Music Prize, beating out rockgiants Coldplay and Radiohead. A few days later, the kid known tohis mom as Dylan Mills turned 19.

DizzeeRascal is a sloe-eyed, whip-tongued, slang-crunching revolution inBritish street sounds, occupying a space between the London underworldof Charles Dickens, the thug-poet realism of Tupac Shakur, and thebleeding-edge beats of U.K. stars the Streets and Ms. Dynamite. Theraps on Boy in Da Corner — when discernible through acacophony of squawks, blurts, car alarms, sirens, and Rascal’scockney-gangsta flow — spin tales of sex, violence, and strife at thebottom of the English class ladder. “As I was growing up, I had a lotof problems,” Rascal says, alluding to a criminal record and an abortededucation. “But the flip side is that channeling it made the musicwork. It’s a reflection of my surroundings. it’s me sitting on thestreet corner, watching life go by.”