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Album Review: E3 AF (October 30, 2020) – Dizzee Rascal

By Evan Cardinal, Albright '21

Nov 13, 2020

The Context – Titled after the aggressive, distorted electronic production and abrasive lyricism to match, grime is a truly unique hip hop genre native to the U.K. The amalgamation of garage electronic music and dance hall beats in grime reached the mainstream of both British and European charts in the mid-2000s thanks to the genre pioneers Kano, Wiley, Lethal Bizzle, and Dizzee Rascal. Today, the genre has evolved to appeal to a more mainstream pop audience as evident in the records of Stormzy, AJ Tracey, Skepta, and slowthai.

Dizzee Rascal continues to deliver the sounds of grime. Born Dylan Kwabena Mills in east London, Rascal was a troublemaker whose only calming outlet was music. Dizzee self-produced his first single “I Luv U”—later a staple track on 2003’s acclaimed Boy In da Corner—as a sixteen-year old MC. The bright young career blossomed into a prolific two BPI certified platinum and gold records, four number one tracks on the U.K. Singles Chart, and was even appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2020 for his contributions to music.

The Content – A nod to his East Londoner heritage, Dizzee Rascal’s seventh record E3 AF charges forward with full-fledged, heavy, and manic grime in the opening track “God Knows” featuring P Money. A tad bit subdued in comparison to “God Knows,” “That’s Too Much” is another searing track of prototypical grime with furious bars from Rascal, D Double E, and Frisco and a pulsating production. The mantra in “L.L.L.L. (Love Life Live Large)” and the verse from grime and British hip hop legend Chip continues the opening salvo of grime.

Dizzee transitions from down and dirty side to the dance hall aspect of grime in the high-energy “Body Loose” and “You Don’t Know” tracks. “Energies + Powers” is a more palpable, laid-back song with more introspective lyrics from Rascal, a reggae-infused refrain from Alicaì Harley, and a slick pop-sounding hip-hop beat from producer Steel Banglez.

“Eastside” is the foundational track on the record with Dizzee and fellow grime forefathers Ghetts and Kano showcasing the grit of urban east Londoners. “Act Like You Know” and “Don’t Be Dumb” are the final two rap heavyweights on E3 AF. These tracks compliment the closing track “Be Incredible”a Lupe Fiasco-esque blending Dizzee’s lyrical bravado and Rob Jones TV’s pop refrain.

The Skinny – Nearly twenty years after his 2003 Mercury Prize-winning debut Boy In da Corner, Dizzee Rascal remains a force within the U.K. grime scene. E3 AF seamlessly oscillates amongst nostalgic, heavy-handed grime, fresh dancehall, and a contemporary hip hop vibe. Dizzee captures the sentimentality of early grime yet he remains topical as the MC produced the record while in quarantine. E3 AF is yet another instance of Dizzee Rascal’s grime and British hip hop brilliance.

The Rating – 7.3/10

E3 AF

  1. God Knows
  2. That’s Too Much
  3. L.L.L. (Love Life Live Large)
  4. Body Loose
  5. You Don’t Know (Radio Edit)
  6. Energies + Powers
  7. Eastside
  8. Act Like You Know
  9. Don’t Be Dumb
  10. Be Incredible

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