Dizzee Rascal blazes through D.C. and leaves his mark

May 3, 2005, midnight | By Jonah Gold | 15 years, 4 months ago

British rapper shows his potential at 9:30 club

At 11:45 p.m., when I finally emerged from the 9:30 club, I felt sick to my stomach and yet at the same time, I felt completely satisfied. I had just survived a little over two hours of British hip-hop, in this instance characterized by simple, pounding beats repeated again and again, with an often louder and faster artist rapping on top. The MC, Dizzee Rascal, was forced to rhyme faster than many can, trying to keep pace with the ever-faster DJ. Thus as I sat down on the sidewalk, I was awed by the silence of an empty city street and how it compared to the body-shaking sound of British beats and the rap that goes along with them.

Dizzee Rascal, one of the most commercially successful rappers in Great Britain, was probably one of the most exciting performers that I have ever seen. For over an hour he was completely immersed not only in his music, but also in the crowd itself, trying to reach the raw emotions of the listeners, whether through call and response, attempted conversation or a song remixed to suit American audiences. Dizzee tried all three, but his accent and tendency to mumble seemed to cut the first two options short, leading him to do what he does best: rhyme with extreme precision over an ever-changing background of beats from the DJ.

The crowd, half British, half American, seemed to have a hard time overall keeping pace with Dizzee. The open spaces he left in his song when he tried to incorporate the listeners were often left quiet as many listeners were unable to know their role in the song. Half the crowd knew the words, but my fellow Americans and I were often left in the dark as Dizzee sometimes discarded his original songs and explored new paths. His extremely thick accent along with the speed of his songs made it very hard to find out what the Rascal was trying to say, but when he stayed true to his songs there were truly stunning results.

When he played his biggest hit, "Fix Up, Look Sharp," the entire crowd was immersed in the song as everyone rapped with him, leading to probably one of the loudest four-minute periods of my life. However, just like the other fans, I was completely entranced not only by the crowd but the reaction that Dizzee had. He was smiling, an emotion usually left in the dark by rappers in favor of a stone cold street facade. And he had reason to smile-it seemed as if all of his possible expectations had been exceeded: he was playing in front of an almost-full club, and everyone knew the words to his song even though he was in a country thousands of miles away from his own.

On other songs that lacked the airplay and publicity of Dizzee's traditional hits, the crowd, except for his more loyal British fans, became much quieter. American fans would become almost silent, and Dizzee had to fight for most of the night to include the American audience in a show targeted towards the British listeners more common with all of his songs. DJ Wonderboy, who actually was the opening act for the night, would often change the beat slightly in order to rejuvenate the crowd, or switch the beat to one that Americans would be more familiar with, such as the beats from "In Da' Club" by 50 Cent, "Rockaway" by Terror Squad and assorted classics by the Notorious BIG. Suddenly the entire crowd, especially the Americans, would start to jump again as they clung onto something more familiar than Dizzee's thick British accent.

Through every song, there was one constant: the bass was as loud as possible, pounding not only in my ears or even in my entire body, but instead shaking the club itself. It seemed sometimes that the entire room was vibrating to the beat, and as each song ended an awkward silence would replace it, but only for a moment. Dizzee wanted to keep the momentum going, he wanted to keep rapping, and any pause in between songs was putting a halt to his lyrical barrage for the night.

Overall, while Dizzee's lyrics were nothing amazing, it was his ability to captivate an audience through his delivery alone that made him an act worth paying for. Any listener was able to see in him an artist having fun doing his job, telling his life while rhyming with a speed and sense of excitement that few in America, Britain or the rest of the world can.

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