Great Britain

People tell me my stuff got them through childhood and coming out of prison, says Dizzee Rascal

IT’S the day before the news breaks that Dizzee Rascal is to be awarded an MBE for services to music – but he is already in celebratory mood.

“It’s positivity, it’s motivating. That’s this album,” says the affable rapper on our video call. “I’ve always tried to make a motivational album and this one is that. I listen to the way I sound on every song. Like full projection, I say everything from my chest.”

E3 AF is Dizzee Rascal back to his grime roots. The title is a reference to where he grew up in East London, as well as “a derogatory term for African people” Dizzee says was “banter when (he) was a kid”.

The tracks were recorded over the past two and a half years in Miami and South East London — not too far from the studio where he made his first album, 2003’s Mercury Prize winner Boy In Da Corner.

He says: “Every single on the record has its own vibe. The time it took helped with that.

“It took two and a half years, pretty much, so over time, it’s real events of real time and space. It might have sounded different if I’d just booked a studio and stayed in there for a month.”

With 20 years in the game, Dizzee is seen as the elder statesman of grime.

Does he feel proud of that legacy — and of grime’s influence on mainstream music?

“Yeah,” he says, “it’s normal now — to the point now where you’ve got the drill stuff too.

“The thing that has come after grime has kind of settled. Again, that’s another proud thing — to be a part of something. But at the same time, lucky as well. I was born at the right time.

“I grew up in the right area, rolling with the punches of circumstance.”

‘BANGING MY CHEST’

This is an album of energetic tracks and changing styles that will earn the man born Dylan Mills plenty of credit when it is released today.

Dizzee, 36, says: “People have always loved that side of my work. I mean, that’s what has got people through sh*t.

“People tell me my album got them through their childhood or coming from prison and stuff like that. So there’s that, but I’ve managed to get the good-vibe stuff as well.

“Body Loose and Act Like You Know, those tunes are like the achievements of this album. It’s not that big of an achievement to me to make tunes like Holiday and Dance Wiv Me because they were so happy.

“I was in a good place and I was able to make tunes that are here forever that people just feel good to.

“People never forget good times. On E3 you’ve got some sections where it’s just me kind of banging my chest, just typical rap sh*t. And then I’ve managed to put in personal stuff like going through hard times or my own personal sh*t.”

Like his previous album, 2017s Raskit, this continues a return to his grime roots and Dizzee making beats again.

He had started working with mainstream producers following his third album, 2007’s Maths + English, and gave up producing duties, saying he was enjoying working with others and lacked the patience to do it himself. But that changed in 2017.

He says: “I met up with (producer friend) J Mike to take him to an Arsenal game and when I was driving, he was making beats in the car.

“After that I went and bought (production software) Ableton and started making beats again. It was all Serum, Splice and Ableton. I’d heard of Ableton but I never used it.

“And that’s where the Don’t Gas Me EP (from 2018) come from — because that’s all my production. Off the back of that is when the beginning of this album came to be. So that is how I got back into making beats again.”

E3 AF is Dizzee at his most collaborative, teaming up with a host of British rappers: P Money on God Knows; Chip on L.L.L.L. (Love Life Live Large); Ghetts and Kano on Eastside; Frisco on That’s Too Much; and Ocean Wisdom on Don’t Be Dumb.

‘REAL INTENSE PERIOD’

“It’s nice to be able to work with someone like Ocean Wisdom. I got everyone to come to the studio. With Ghetts and Kano, I’ve known them since I was, like, 15.”

A surprise collaboration that came after finishing the album was with Oasis mastermind Noel Gallagher.

Dizzee says: “I used to call Noel, usually for advice on business and sh*t like that. The track came about in the first couple of weeks of the lockdown. I’d really got stuck in with making beats and it was that real intense period.

“I had nothing to do because the album was done, so I called up MJ Cole — I worked with him before we made (2013 track) Bassline Junkie. I asked him if he had had anything he didn’t use for his classical music album (this year’s MJ Cole Presents Madrugada) that I could sample, so he sent me something.

“Then I sent it to Noel Gallagher and a month later or something, he sent it back. I was shocked. I listened to it and I thought, ‘Wow!’ It didn’t even sound like him.

“I did a song with DJ Fresh, How Love Begins, and Noel texted me saying he loved the tune. He wasn’t just born with guitar music in his head.

“Doing that with Noel gave me such a thrill because I’ve always wanted to have someone massive on a beat I’ve made. I loved Oasis. I love both Noel and Liam. I loved Liam’s documentary. They’re legends.”

Dizzee, who hopes to work with Lianne La Havas next, says of his collaborations: “Usually it’s me jumping on it, or some other grime MC like P Money.

“But Lianne was in the same studio I was working in. She’d just finished her album and I sent her a bunch of beats. So I think that’ll be good as well.

“And whoever, man! It’s never gonna be no straightforward thing. Even my poppiest albums didn’t just have pop on. That’s what I set out to do with every album — see how much I can get away with.

“I used to say it was all about making money but it’s always been about making varied music and this album, I’ve done it very well.”

E3 AF show off Dizzee’s dry humour as well as his quick-fire delivery. TV stars Danny Dyer, Phillip Schofield and Matthew Kelly are all name-checked.

“Come on, you remember Stars In Their Eyes with Matthew presenting?” he laughs. “It was Britain’s Got Talent, basically. I had to get him on there. Legend.”

Piers Morgan won’t be getting a mention after their run-in on Good Morning Britain in June, when Dizzee refused to be drawn into a discussion on Black Lives Matter.

“It wasn’t a bust-up,” he says. “I just didn’t want to speak about it.” Dizzee has come a long way since the Mercury Prize in 2003, when he became its youngest winner at 19 after beating albums by Coldplay and Radiohead. 

“I went on The One Show to do a little piece on how it felt to win,” he says. “I didn’t know how big a deal it was. I’d only heard of it because Ms Dynamite won the year before. That is how it got my attention. And she ended up giving it to me the next year.

“After all these years of going around the world being asked about it, I clocked it was a big deal. And man, I’m so proud of it. I’ve been nominated three times and won it once. It’s good.”

With an MBE in the bag and 17 years at the top, what ambitions does he still hold?

Dizzee says: “It just makes me want to keep doing more. I look at the grades and I look at the people that have been in it for longer. Look at Paul McCartney — he’s been in music more than 50 years. He’s 78 and it doesn’t seem like he’s slowing down.

“He’s been a major pop star, then they made some really experimental cool stuff in The Beatles. Then with his solo career he’s done so much. He’s with Stevie Wonder one minute, then he’s doing Rupert And The Frog Song.

“The range is crazy. And he’s still here. Everyone still knows who he is. That’s the goal.”

Official music video for Dizzee Rascal's track 'Nutcrackerz' ft. Giggs K

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