Fresh from the U.K., Dizzee Rascal‘s Maths & English isn’t quite a new release, though U.S. fans may be hearing it for the first time. Released in the U.K. in 2007, Maths & English now sees a release in the states via indie staple Definitve Jux, where Dizzee hopes to see the same success here as he has overseas.
The album kicks off with “World Outside,” an extraterrestrial-sounding cut that immediately sets an introspective tone for the album, coupling a far-out musical backdrop with pensive lyrics: “Money, cars, guns and women most males desire/I’m gonna stay red-blooded ’till I expire/Not caught up in the hype, I’m caught up in the scheme of things/Seen a couple of figures but I still dream of things/Like the kind of shit money can’t connect me with/Unconditional love I won’t regret to give.”
The moody feel of the album comes to a screeching halt and does a 180 with “Pussy’ole (Old Skool),” a club-ready diss track that utilizes the oft-sampled “Think (About It)” by Lyn Collins. The sudden change in the vibe of the album is jarring at first, but with the next track, “Sirens,” it becomes evident that that’s exactly what Dizzee is aiming for. “Sirens” is a delightfully paranoid mix of Hip Hop and UK Grime, a marriage of sounds that Dizzee is known for. With its thinly-veiled social commentary and outstanding production, “Sirens” is easily the gem of the album.
Those unfamiliar with Dizzee Rascal may be surprised by UGK‘s appearance of the album (they previously collaborated on UGK‘s Underground Kingz), but “Where’s Da G’s” has a very entertaining sort of balance; Dizzee‘s grating voice in juxtaposition with Bun B and the late Pimp C‘s smooth as butter flows will have you hitting rewind.
Maths & English isn’t without missteps. “Bubbles” pales in comparison to the other danceable songs on the album due to its uninspired lyrics and insipid beat, and really fails to add anything. “Suk My Dick” is probably the worst cut on the album; even though it’s intended as a sort of childish “fuck you” to haters, it only succeeds in irritating with its nursery rhymes and juvenile sound.
Probably the most striking thing about this album is its wide range of sounds. Dizzee Rascal throws any hope of cohesiveness out of the window with his wide range of beat selection, but it works extremely well. Listeners will be treated to a myriad of varying sounds: “Sirens,” “Paranoid,” and “U Can’t Tell Me Nuffin'” all have an eerie, hectic feel, while “Pussy’ole (Old Skool),” “Flex,” and “Temptation” are upbeat and infectious, and showcase Dizzee‘s considerable charisma. There’s even the lighthearted “Wanna Be,” which features Lily Allen and is a complete departure from the rest of the album. There’s a method to Dizzee‘s madness here, as the ever-changing sound of Maths & English provides a vessel for his creativity and strong personality on the mic.
Often times, the best albums are the ones that take you to a far off place, deep inside the artist’s imagination. The Slim Shady LP, The Infamous, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot – all of these albums have that quality. While Maths & English certainly does not hold a candle to these timeless classics, it does succeed in bringing you into another world, where Dizzee‘s thoughts and quirks are on full display. Erratic though it may be, Maths & English succeeds in immersing you in Dizzee‘s world – a rare feat indeed.