Dizzee Rascal seems to be immune to 2020’s many obstacles – frankly, he seems to be having a great year. The rapper is back with album seven after picking up GRM Daily’s Legacy Award at this year’s Rated Awards and appearing on the front cover of NME repping his childhood borough, Bow.
This album is all about nostalgia and paying homage to home; Dizzee’s own history being the unrelenting star of the show on tracks which, by and large, evoke elements of the genre that Dizzee helped birth; old-school British Grime.
The album starts strong on ‘Happy Accident / God Knows,’ featuring P Money. Dizzee makes it clear he’s not fooling around, echoing his claim that this album “is making a statement – I’m a fucking serious rapper.” And he keeps it fresh with intense energy running throughout, bringing in old friends Kano, D Double E and Ghetts to remind us why he’s still at the top of his game.
Dizzee teased us with three singles from the album in September; first came ‘L.L.L.L’ (Love Life Live Large) ft. Chip, which came with a video which saw a very suave Dizzee and a chilled out Chip romping around a bourgeois country estate, injecting their own East London aesthetic and summing up the general mood of the album. Then came the altogether grittier second single ‘Act Like You Know’, which features Swift & Deepee of Smoke Boys and ventures into Drill territory. ‘Body Loose’ followed suit, which is a nod to and sample of Architechs’ UK Garage classic ‘Body Groove.’
On ‘E3 AF,’ Dizzee strips away a lot of the Pop stylings and Ayia Napa crowd basslines that proliferate some of his most commercially successful tracks. Instead, he seems to be taking a trip down memory lane, reverting to the kind of lyricism we heard on his more influential early tracks: “Switchin’ up my cadence and my phrasin’ / Buzz words been chasin’ the buzz but it’s fadin’ / I don’t know the last time I went ravin’ / but the last couple nights I been cravin”.
‘E3 AF’ even sees Dizzee slow it down occasionally on tracks like ‘Energies & Powers,’ which features some sublime vocals from Alicai Harley, and the uplifting, powerful, politically-charged ‘Be Incredible.’ Elsewhere, Dizzee picks the pace up on tracks like ‘Eastside’ ft. Kano & Ghetts. It’s a blistering album stand-out surely forged in the same fires as KA’s ‘Class of Deja,’ and Dizzee’s consistently skilled word-play and cheeky lines proves he can still compete with the Aitches and Octavians of today. It seems that after a lot of playing around with various genres, successes in all, Dizzee’s ready to settle back into the Grime he has the best command over. It’s a point that never really needed proving, of course.
Dizzee’s own pace and timing is matched easily, even superseded perhaps. on track nine by Ocean Wisdom who delivers some eye-brow raising bars bars at a rate of knots over a manically energised beat: “With ten b*tches I fingered all ten of ’em… I’m mischief bubblin’ swift I’m menacin’ / Oopsy daisy, better than Jay-Z… I demand you never try play me”. Strong claims.
This is a personal album for Dizzee, harking back to his youth in parts and exploring his own identity in others; even the title is a nod to his heritage; “It’s E3 AF as in African”, he states. Summarising, perhaps, Dizzee’s formative years growing up black in East London and birthing a genre there. Despite this return to roots, it feels that he’s not quite ready to commit to those roots sonically, as the album still holds elements of pop-music hooks. Though the sentiment is there alongside the album’s vision.
Stream below via SoundCloud.