Dizzee Rascal Biography

Dylan Kwabena Mills (born 1 October 1985 in Bow, London), better known by his stage name Dizzee Rascal, is a English rapper, songwriter and record producer of Ghanaian and Nigerian descent. His music is a blend of garage MCing, conventional rap, grime, ragga, and electronic music, with extremely eclectic samples and more exotic styles. Best known for his number-one hits "Dance Wiv Me", "Bonkers" and "Holiday", his debut album, Boy in da Corner, won him the 2003 Mercury Prize. Follow-up albums Showtime, Maths + English and Tongue N' Cheek have all been critically acclaimed and certified gold.

Mills was born in Bow, East London. His father died when he was young, and he was raised for most of his life in a single-parent family by his African-born mother, who worked two jobs.

He attended a series of schools in East London, excluded from four secondary schools in four years - it was a teacher who first called him "Rascal". Cagey about exactly what his youthful "madnesses" entailed, in early interviews he mentioned fighting with teachers, stealing cars and robbing pizza delivery men. In the fifth school, Langdon Park in Poplar, he was excluded from most classes except music.

He began making music on the school's computer, encouraged by a music teacher, Mr Smith, and during the summer holidays attended a music workshop organised by Tower Hamlets Summer University of which he is now a patron. His mother bought him his first turntables.

Dizzee once told author Ben Thompson in an interview with the Sunday's Observer magazine that “everything I do is for the music – I want to master it like Bruce Lee mastered martial arts."

His music is an eclectic mixture of garage and hip-hop beats with an extremely broad palette of influences, ranging from metal guitars to found sound, drill and bass synth lines, eclectic samples and even Japanese court music. It can best be summarised as a high-octane tribal skank, or even an unreconstructed step-up council skank; Dizzee also makes extensive use of un-coupled octuplets and double and triple couplets in his machine-gun paced stacato lyrics. Like most grime artists, he uses "beats born of ringtones, video games and staticky pirate-radio sounds" Dizzee's tracks are traditional grime in that the beats are often asymmetrical and make it difficult to dance to his music. His vocal performance is also distinctive; he uses a fast style of rapping which blends elements from garage MCing, conventional rap, grime and ragga. He raps about the same issues a confused generation of youth tends to; broken family, faithless mentors and a lack of support. Dizzee's videos are similar to many grime and garage artists in the UK. They are frenetic and fast, often matching the speed of the rapping; this is especially visible in the videos to "Fix Up, Look Sharp" and "I Luv U". Although his fast style of rapping and his subject matter are nothing more than ordinary in the UK, Dizzee Rascal's diversity nonetheless separates him from other UK rappers. In his song "Brand New Day", Dizzee Rascal used "flat, punching out riddims into cheap PC software, beats born of ringtones, video games, and staticky pirate-radio sounds". He is able to change his sound of music completely, by using a different processor. In "Jus' a Rascal", he uses "T.O.K.'s hysterical dancehall harmonies, a synthesised guitar line halfway between death metal and English Beat, stuttering Southern hi-hats and a kick drum retarded to a crawl".

Dizzee is grime's most popular artist globally, and is arguably the best-known grime artist to most people. He worked closely with his mentor Wiley, who created one of the first grime tracks, called "Eskimo". Grime is today still considered underground, despite Dizzee's large mainstream exposure Dizzee's DJ, DJ Semtex, says, "the biggest conflict I have is with major labels because they still don’t get it."

Experimenting with his decks and styles, he became an amateur DJ, making occasional appearances on a local pirate radio station. Aged 16, he self-produced his first single, "I Luv U", about teenage pregnancy. In 2002, he jointly formed the Roll Deep Crew, a 13-piece garage collective, with former school friends. Signed by the XL record label, he signed an additional solo deal.

After winning a Sidewinder Award for Best Newcomer MC in 2002, in June 2003 the re-recorded and re-produced by Jacob Freitt single I Luv U was released, becoming a Top 30 hit single.

Boy in da Corner

Dizzee's first solo album, Boy in da Corner, was released to universal critical acclaim in August 2003, entering the UK Top 40 at #40. The album would peak at #23. In the same week the album was released, while performing with Roll Deep Crew, the rapper was stabbed six times in Ayia Napa. Many tabloids suggested that this event was connected to an apparent feud between Dizzee and garage act So Solid Crew, and his pinching Lisa Maffia's bottom. After Dizzee was hospitalised, So Solid Crew member "Megaman" - real name Dwayne Vincent - was later questioned about the incident, but was immediately released by Cypriot police.
Following the success of single I Luv U and the album, the second single from Boy in da Corner was "Fix Up, Look Sharp". The single, released in August 2003, gave Dizzee his first UK Top 20 single and also became the biggest hit from his debut album. In September, Dizzee was awarded the prestigious Mercury Prize for the best album of 2003. He was the youngest person (at 19) to do so and the second rapper (after Ms. Dynamite the previous year). The album was also chosen as the #1 album of the year by Planet Sound.

Along with being picked as the #1 album of the year by Planet Sound, Boy in da Corner was also chosen as one of the top 50 albums of the year by Rolling Stone, joining the likes of Kanye West, Mos Def, Eminem, and Jadakiss for 2004. His unique style, as "words pour out at a high pitch and pace, as if syllables are the only thing that can hold back a scream," have given him a sound that hip hop heads can embrace as something new and original in the hip hop scene. Later in the year he collaborated with the Basement Jaxx on their third album, Kish Kash on the track "Lucky Star". The track was released as a single in November 2003 and gave Dizzee his third top 30 hit. The third and final single, taken from his debut album, was "Jus' a Rascal", which became his fourth top 30 success. The song was also featured in the film "Kidulthood", released in 2006.

"Jezebel" was never released from the album, but was well received nonetheless, gaining exposure and popularity on the underground scene. The song told the tale of a young London girl, who through years of going to parties, getting drunk, doing drugs and having sex earned herself the title Jezebel. He made his US concert debut on 7 February 2004 at Volume in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York.

Showtime

In 2004, Dizzee Rascal won the NME Award for Innovation. His second album, Showtime, was released in September of the same year, eclipsing the peak of his debut album by entering the UK Albums Chart at #8. The first single from the album, released two weeks earlier in August 2004, was titled Stand Up Tall; it was written and produced by DJ Youngstar and entered the UK Top 10.

The second single "Dream", another top 20 hit, was released in November 2004. It sampled (and used the chorus of) Captain Sensible's song "Happy Talk", originally from the makers of Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, South Pacific. The "Dream" music video consisted of a mock 1950s style children's marionette show depicting scenes corresponding to the lyrics about Dizzee's youth; street culture, crime, single teenage mothers, pirate radio and garage clubs.

Later in 2004, Dizzee Rascal was part of Band Aid 20, a group of British musicians who re-recorded "Do They Know It's Christmas?" He did not sing in the song; rather, he rapped two lines of it ("Spare a thought this yuletide for the deprived, if the table was turned would you survive?" and "You ain't gotta feel guilt just selfless, give a little help to the helpless"). Dizzee Rascal was the first person to add to the song since the original was released; this would mark the first time that Dizzee reached the number one spot in the UK Singles Chart, albeit as part of the ensemble.

In 2004, Dizzee Rascal made an international endorsement deal with urban brand Eckō and designed his own shoe with Nike in 2005.

In March 2005, the Double A-side single "Off 2 Work" / "Graftin'" was released. "Graftin'" was the third and final single from the Showtime album, whilst "Off 2 Work" was a new track that did not appear on either of his albums. The accompanying music video featured Rascal in various ordinary workplace situations (as a policeman, a fast food vendor, a businessman, etc.) and as Prime Minister, announcing his engagement to Cherie Blair. It would prove to be Dizzee's lowest charting single to date, peaking outside the Top 40 at #44.

Maths + English

Dizzee's third album, Maths + English, was released on 4 June 2007. He stated in an interview before the album's release that "Maths" refers to producing, in terms of beats, deals and money and "English" to writing lyrics. The first single off this album, Sirens, was released on 21 May. While American influences were vital to the creative evolution of “Maths & English,” the album never compromised its distinctively British identity.

The album was one of the 12 nominees for the 2007 Mercury Prize, which ultimately went to The Klaxons' album Myths of the Near Future. During the year, Dizzee worked with cross-genre artist Beck on a remix of the song "Hell Yes", and provided guest vocals on an Arctic Monkeys track, the B-Side to their single "Brianstorm" named "Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend". Dizzee's version of the same song was featured as "Temptation" on his third album.

The official US album was released on 29 April 2008; it contained two tracks not on the European release, but it did not include the track "Pussyole'". It was Dizzee's first album to be released under the Definitive Jux label.

In 2008, Dizzee Rascal recorded a song for suicide charity CALM; the song "Dean" was about a friend of Dizzee's who took his own life. In December of that year, he was arrested following an alleged incident involving a baseball bat in Southeast London. He was released on bail to return to a police station later in December.

Tongue N' Cheek

Dizzee Rascal released his fourth studio album, Tongue N' Cheek, on 21 September 2009. It included his three number-one hits "Dance Wiv Me", "Holiday" and "Bonkers". Its release was announced on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, where Dizzee Rascal revealed some details about the album, including track information and production. Dizzee recently confirmed in an interview on Radio One, that he would be leaving his grime roots behind, in favour of more mainstream pop. On 23 May 2008, Calvin Harris, whom he collaborated with on the number-one smash "Dance Wiv Me", revealed on his Twitter that he was producing a Dizzee track; at the Evolution Festival, Newcastle, and when on tour supporting The Prodigy, he confirmed that two new singles called "Road Rage" and "Dirtee Cash", both of which featured on the album, would be released. "Dirtee Cash" has, to date, peaked at #10.
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