Offbeat Beats: Boy in Da Corner, Dizzee Rascal
Boy in Da Corner, Dizzee Rascal - or how an 18 year old from East London changed the future of Grime.
Offbeat Beats is a series that tries to bring to you and explore a variety of interesting and unique albums that you may not have heard of.
When Skepta’s Konnichiwa won the Mercury Prize in 2016 (the annual music prize for the best music album from the United Kingdom and Ireland), Grime’s international resurgence seemed to be affirmed. Birthed in East London in the early 2000’s, this sub-genre of Hip-Hop fired out a stream of endlessly original, endlessly creative albums - ground out with one hand in the remaining strands of Dancehall and Garage and another in the growling citywide discontent of the economic recession of the early 2000’s. Now transformed and affirmed as an international sensation, it seems only fitting that an eye should be cast back to one of the early significant albums in this genre’s history; Dizzee Rascal’s 2003 classic Boy in Da Corner - which rather fittingly won that same Mercury Prize 13 years earlier.
In 2003, hip-hop was popular and growing, but hadn’t yet taken its all-encompassing role on pop-culture’s stage. Jay Z would announce his initial retirement later in the year, 50 Cent would release his debut album Get Rich or Die Tryin’ that year, and Kanye West’s debut and instant classic College Dropout wouldn’t even come out till next year. Hip-Hop was establishing itself in the mainstream, and it was constantly looking to grow. Onto this stage then in 2003, to almost no mainstream hype, some 18 year old from East London known as Dizzee Rascal released his debut album. Almost immediately it blew up, and almost immediately it blew everyone away. Released to overwhelming critical acclaim, almost reverence in some cases (MTV Base named it their 6th greatest album of all time), Grime was thrust into the mainstream and the country that was internationally famous for the Spice Girls and Take That! suddenly had a young minority from East London as their newest musical hero. The album rode this wave to take one of the most significant music prizes in the UK (the aforementioned Mercury Prize), and became one of the foundational centerpieces of modern London culture. Just as Outkast, whose double album Speakerboxxx / The Love Below would win the Grammy for best album that year, represented Hip-Hop and Atlanta together and as individuals, London now had Dizzee Rascal and Grime.
Boy in Da Corner is a screenshot, a moment of childhood. Dripping with sarcasm, humor, confidence, concern - it’s about the confusion of growing up and the even more confusing circumstances you’re growing up in. The album's been forced to grow up too fast, but has no way to recapture or even fake the childhood it never really had. It’s observant, just constantly observant; the apogee of adolescence and nadir of having to become an adult. Hey, if nothing else, it was one of the first and major albums to bring this certain sub-genre of hip-hop called grime to the mainstream - and look how that’s turned out.
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Listen to Boy in Da Corner on Spotify here: