Dizzee Rascal – Nottingham Rock City, Tuesday October 13.
From leading light of the underground grime scene, to darling of the broadsheet critics, to fully fledged mainstream pop star, Dizzee Rascal has come a long way in the last seven years. As with fellow traveller Tinchy Stryder, his new audience is young, eager, pop-savvy, and up for having the best time possible. The girls at the front of the balcony lapped up his bad-boy act (without ever taking it too seriously), while the boys at the back of the main floor nodded their appreciation of his quickfire lyrical flow. All of them knew their stuff, chanting whole verses back at their beaming hero, his sidekick and rhyming partner Scope, and Semtex, their man-mountain of a DJ.
Saving his most pop-orientated tunes for the end of the set, Dizzee launched straight into his performance at full tilt: spitting out the rhymes at top speed, with barely any let-up for the first twenty minutes. It could have felt oppressive – but the MC carried his crowd with controlled assurance, keeping right on his marks and never dropping a syllable for even a split second. The tempo dropped briefly, for the nearest we were going to get to a slow jam, before Dizzee picked up the pace once again, with a special shout-out out to his female fans. (“This one’s for all you sexy girls. DROP THAT S***!”)
As the set built to its climax, Old Skool recycled the Lyn Collins “woo-yeah” breakbeat that so dominated hip hop in the late Eighties, while new single Dirtee Cash revived Stevie V’s dance anthem from 1990. Finally, we got to the three big hitters: Dance Wiv Me, Holiday and Bonkers, all of them chart-toppers, and all of them guaranteed to raise the temperature to boiling point and beyond. Bonkers in particular seemed to unleash a special kind of madness – confirming its status as one of the defining hits of 2009, and reminding us that this has truly been the Year of the Rascal.