To some, Dizzee Rascal’s considered the founding father of grime, emerging as an MC and grime producer from East London at the age of 16 with his debut single ‘I Luv U’. To others, he’s the voice of cheeky dancefloor-filler ‘Bonkers’. Now the 33-year-old Mercury Prize winner seems caught trying to please both sets of fans as he embarks on an Australian tour of his more pared-back album Raskit.
“Every time you put out an album you’ve got to make it different from your last,” says Dizzee, real name Dylan Mills. “I know people wanted to hear me make an album more like this. By calling it Raskit, anyone from my early days knows that it’s one of the names I go by.”
‘Raskit’ was an early moniker and the yellow lyric book and childhood photo pinned on the cover of his latest album, released in July 2017, was an intentional message to anyone who grew up listening to him at grime raves at his home in Bow, East London. Mills tells us his intention was to make “a serious rap album without all the bells and whistles” – and he calls for that recognition in lyrics like ‘Why they talking like I never made bare grime?’
“It’s back to simplicity,” he says. “Just bars and beats, no big hooks. ’Cos that’s what a lot of people didn’t like about my last album; a lot of people didn’t like the big features and guests. I’m basically doing the opposite of that.”
He’s not here to apologise either. Sure, he’s moved on from churning out catchy Hottest 100 hits like ‘Dance Wiv Me’ (number 17 in in 2008), but he’s not turning his back on those fans. “The Fifth, my first platinum album, was independent and it was full of big singing hooks [featuring collaborations with Robbie Williams and Jessie J]. Doing it the way I did Raskit was easier, ’cos I don’t have to fucking chase down signers.” he says, laughing.
Sonically, Raskit has been compared to his debut record Boy in da Corner, released in 2003. “You have people that want it to sound exactly like it did in 2002, 2003,” he says. But in new releases like ‘Wot U Gonna Do?’ he raps “What you gonna do when your fans don’t care cos they’re all grown up and they’ve all moved on?” It’s a palpable struggle – prove yourself on a scene that includes longtime rival Wiley and grime revivers Skepta and Stormzy, or continue that popstar success and ride the nostalgia wave.
“[There’s] a hell catalogue, six albums’ worth, so I’ll be doing the new stuff, and I’ll be doing all the bangers – 15 years’ worth of bangers… It’s the same with Elvis, the Beatles, or Michael Jackson, you’ve people who love different eras of those artists,” he says, trying not to take himself too seriously. “I can’t believe I just said that, innit.”
When we ask if he has any regrets over his long career, he goes deadpan, “Make sure you make a song with Robbie Williams, everyone will love it.” Then more seriously, “Nah! What for? Sometimes I think ‘fucking hell, it’s done really well’. You couldn’t have made a game plan for everything that’s happened.”