Dizzee Rascal – “I Luv U”

Released: 5.26.03

Peak: Did not chart

Dylan Mills is Britain’s greatest MC. Poor Dizzee deserves a less qualified compliment than that, a genuine plaudit, not the condescending head-pat reserved for America’s greatest cricketer or, say, France’s greatest MC. The idiosyncratic nature of his limited competition (Mike Skinner, Lady Sov, Roots Maneuva) only makes his accomplishment that much more remarkable–in a culture where no definitive rap style predominates, there are no giants whose shoulders provide a novice an artistic boost.

A mere eighteen and sounding it, Dizzee may have fronted as hard as any U.S. thug–the “three magic words” of his song title, he says, are “for the birds”–yet his high-pitched yelp added a comic urgency of his spastic delivery, and there was a Jamaican edge to the way he rolled his tongue around street patois that grew often no less confusing once you deciphered it. (“Captain Rusko with a crossbow” = wha?) The plot of “I Luv U,” Jeff Chang says, is of “two teens in a high-stakes stalemate over an unwanted pregnancy.” But that synopsis, if literally true, straightens the cryptic density of Dizzee’s piled-on syllables into something more straightforward than what we hear. Unlike anything since early Wu-Tang, the initial impenetrability of these rhymes was essential to their appeal.

And the electronic chaos through which Dizzee ricochets renders luv more of a battlefield than Pat Benatar or Jordin Sparks combined; rather than a war zone lit with romantic incandescence by bombs bursting in air, we’re spun about by the unseen sniper-shots of a particularly disorienting RPG. And here’s where Dizzee the producer earns extra cred. The U.K. MC crown may be a low-hanging fruit, but it’s no small feat to lay claim to the hottest electro-beats in a land where frantic, funky blips are mummy’s milk.

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