In East London, outside in the brisk autumn air, in all directions, there are people in black tracksuits and Air Max trainers. If this was any other night, the boy’dem would be on-site. But this is different. There’s a reason why this crowd are fashionably synchronised. The same reason why the tickets for this event at the Copper Box arena have sold out within days. Finally, after much frustration caused by a show 3000 miles away from London, Dizzee Rascal has come home to perform his seminal album, ‘Boy In Da Corner’.
Ever since ‘I Luv U’, Dizzee has cemented himself into Grime folklore. He went on the create an album which is synonymous with the word Grime. This album defined a genre. Some will say Grime is 140bpm, but the tracks on ‘Boy In Da Corner’ don’t fit that mould. It weaves in and out, drawing from influences of southern hip hop, ragga and UK underground music which enabled Dizzee to create a masterpiece that has resonated with multiple generations of music lovers.
On this night, those same fans came together. Setting off nostalgic conversations about where they were when they first heard the album, discussions prompted deep set feelings when Red Bull Music Academy announced Dizzee’s show in New York. This show prompted a rise from Grime fans and even resulted in a petition formed by Laura ‘HyperFrank’ Brosnan which swiftly gained traction and caused Dizzee himself to pay attention, bringing it up in an interview. The fervour from his supporters in London was soon recognised and a London live show was added to the Red Bull Music Academy tour.
As the Copper Box arena in Stratford started to fill up, spaces were set up to emulate the ‘Boy In Da Corner’ album cover. Yellow corners could be found in multiple places for fans to put up their index fingers at the side of their head and pretend to be the young MC if only for a moment.
Kicking off with the legendary DJ Slimzee hitting the decks, he took everyone back in time when Grime wasn’t a genre. A time when a darker version of Garage was being made which didn’t have an identity. DJ Slimzee dug deep into his crate, one he’s been cultivating since the beginning. Dropping his famous ‘baby’ megamix which acts as an amalgamation of all the types of music that went on to form the genre of music we came to know as Grime, the crowd, covered in red lights, saluted Slimzee as he serviced the arena with classical dubplates.
When was the first time you heard Boy In Da Corner?
As the stage lights faded to black, it became illuminated by the lights from all the phones held up by the crowd. Voices played to the crowd telling stories about the first time they heard the album. After what seemed like forever due to all the built up anticipation, the stage was brightly lit by the installation of a makeshift corner with yellow walls and a white floor. Seated in the centre was Dizzee Rascal wearing his exclusive tour merch hoodie. As ‘Sittin’ Here’ played through the sound system, Dizzee projected the lyrics along with everyone else. The reception was as expected. Even with the slower tempo of this song, the crowd was lively and eager to shout the bars back to Dizzee loud enough for him to encourage the crowd participation.
This quickly jumped into the track that got the first reload of the night. ‘Stop Dat’ has a build up which prepared the crowd and prompted a moshpit to form. Before the 2nd bar finished, it was pandemonium. The crowd was moving like waves in the ocean and even the seats up high were flipping upwards as everyone stood with their hands in the air.
Going to from ‘I Luv U’, ‘Brand New Day’ to ‘2 Far’, there wasn’t much of a transition. There wasn’t much time to compose yourself and the next song came in almost immediately. Dizzee rapped every single word of ‘2 Far’ with accuracy, near the end of the song, I imagined that Wiley was somewhere in the crowd with his hood up, spraying his bars for this song. In reality, the DJ didn’t even play his verse. In a perfect world, Wiley would’ve run on stage and turned the place upside down. But, this is real life so it was business as usual.
After an amped performance of ‘Fix Up Look Sharp’ and a great performance of turntable scratching by the DJ at the end of ‘Cut ’Em Off,’ Dizzee went on to perform ‘Hold Ya Mouf’, as the crowd helped out by singing the ‘I mean’ ad-libs, I heard a few people mention ‘God’s Gift’. This was slightly more realistic than Wiley stepping on stage but in ‘God’s Gift’ with his absence, the audience happily filled in and made sure that the chorus was heard. But the fans wasn’t given the chance to recite the final verse as Dizzee swiftly moved into ‘Round We Go’.
The tricky first verse didn’t have any effect on Raskit as he flowed effortlessly on the bass heavy beat. Another song which required Dizzee to be on point was ‘Jus A Rascal’. As we’d come to expect, Dizzee handled it brilliantly, not missing a single syllable as he ran from one side of the stage to the other. This made an impression on the crowd and received a well earned reload for his professionalism.
The crowd participation during the second verse showed the calibre of fans in the building. Hats, drinks and at one point, a jumper was flying through the air as Dizzee went to the centre stage and set the focus while he rapidly fired off the third verse. He really wanted to make sure he said and we heard every word. Everyone showed their appreciation by jumping around and becoming more lively the faster he rhymed. Eagerly waiting for the end of the track to turn to my cousin next to me and recite the words of that young boy on the track and call him a ’shit-head’, once again, Dizzee ended the track prematurely.
After a performance of ‘Wot U On’, Dizzee went into the next track, which was cut short. As the second verse of ‘Jezebel’ blasted through the speakers, Dizzee’s voice drifted into the background. His hypeman looked at him as both started laughing as he forgot the words. “Yo yo. Stop that. You know what, f*** that”. The DJ quickly got the message and slammed on the next tune with raised the levels again.
As ‘Seems 2 Be’ played, the high-intensity lights matched the piercing synths as it’s pulsed with every drop. Moving on swiftly into ‘Live-O’, Dizzee went to the lower stage platform to get closer to his fans who were definitely skanking out and jumping about as the chorus instructed.
I wanna thank everyone for coming out tonight. Obviously, this means a lot doing this in my hometown. My ends. I know how much this sh*t means to you. So thank you — Dizzee Rascal
Before ‘Do It’ played, the final song on the album, he thanked the crowd for coming out to his hometown. His ends. The manor that enabled experiences that led a young man to create a zone in his bedroom which he would then use to transform his thoughts into songs. Songs that would means so much to people more than a decade later. A body of work that will be held as a historic moment in time and would later be recognised by one of the most prestigious award ceremonies in the country.
It’s amazing to think that this album is 13 years old. When albums are referred to as classics, it’s often to signify that the music is timeless. In 2016, over a decade later, thousands of people loudly shouted along to music that sounded futuristic even for today’s climate. Dizzee Rascal dug deep and transformed into the ‘Boy In Da Corner’ what very well may be the last time. For us. For his city. For Grime.