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Music Review

Dizzee Rascal: 'Tongue N Cheek'

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Dizzee Rascal: 'Tongue N Cheek'
Released on Monday, Sep 21 2009

How many grime stars break into the mainstream the way Dizzee Rascal has? Having scooped the Mercury Music prize with his 2003 debut Boy In Da Corner, his achievements since include an appearance as "Mr Rascal" on Newsnight and rebuffing Prince Harry's hand of friendship at a summer festival. In the last year, meanwhile, he's notched up three straight No.1 hits. His humble East End beginnings seemingly a distant memory, Dylan Mills is now revelling in the luxuries that pop stardom brings - and it shows on his fourth offering Tongue N Cheek.

While his debut record - and to a lesser extent his subsequent two - won praise for their gritty rhymes and grimey sounds, Tongue N Cheek reflects Rascal's glamorous lifestyle as he combines enough heady samples and booming club beats to get the dancefloor heaving. The Calvin Harris-produced 'Dance Wiv Me' and thumping techno-fest 'Bonkers' are obvious crowd-pleasers, but plenty here will have the same effect. 'Dirtee Cash', built around a sample from Adventures of Stevie V's 1990 hit, has a cool urban ambience to it, while the reggae-infused 'Can't Tek No More', which borrows from Aswad's 'Warrior Charge', finds Rascal bemoaning everything from the congestion charge to the cost of living, surmising that: "Sooner or later there's gotta be change."

Sooner or later though, his ability to keep the party pumping loses some of its gusto. 'Road Rage', though moderately entertaining on first listen, quickly becomes the musical equivalent of a chained up pitbull ready to savage your face with its barking hook: "Beep beep, coming through, move over, yeah you!" Likewise, the crude boasting on 'Money, Money' and the utterly derogatory 'Freaky Friday' ("I had this pretty little girl in Sweden / Yeah, she was kind of short, but she was easy") fall short of being either clever or particularly funny.

After nearly a decade in the business, it's no surprise that Rascal's sound and influences have evolved and his willingness to cross musical genres has clearly worked to his commercial advantage. Some of the grit and raw excitement may have been lost along the way, but his knack for choosing the right samples and picking the right collaborators generally makes up for it. Less a hip-hop album and more a compilation of party anthems with the odd damp squib, Tongue N Cheek is an enjoyable listen but one which, as its title might suggest, is difficult to take entirely seriously.

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