“Some artists are very depressing – I try to be the opposite…”
Last night he was dancing around on stage with Brandy and Jessie J, an event which would have seemed fairly unlikely a decade ago when his first album, the abrasive and endlessly prickly Boy In Da Corner was released. Now, aged 28, after appearing at the Olympics and working with Beck, Calvin Harris and Arctic Monkeys, Dizzee is fast approaching National Treasure (Chase &) status.
What music did you grow up listening to?
My mum listened to a lot of gospel and Diana Ross, but I liked almost everything. I’d listen to drum and bass, Iron Maiden, 2Pac and some Motown at my child minder’s place, but the first things that really got me were Jimi Hendrix and Guns N’ Roses. I had a neighbour on my estate who was really into metal, he turned me on to magazines like Kerrang and Metal Hammer too. My cousins rinsed that Bone Thugs-N-Harmony album and they got me into Snoop too. They had a tape of Doggystyle and that changed my life.
Why did have such a strong effect?
Because it was so rude! I’d never heard anything like that before. Snoop made his life sound magical, this Doggy land he lived in sounded so amazing. The beats and sounds were so funk influenced too. I was never really into boom-bap hip-hop, I thought that was boring, this was much more musical.
Who are you listening to right now?
Migos, mainly! The new Drake album’s here in front of me, but I’ve not heard it yet. I get the impression it’s very emotional. I respect Drake, he’s done well, he’s bigger than anyone thought he would be, coming from Canada.
Where do you pick up new music from?
A lot of blogs, World Star Hip Hop is good and girls are always great at picking up new stuff. A couple of my girlfriends are brilliant at finding new rappers, people like Casey Veggies, those artists the big rappers are copying.
Tell me, does the perfect song exist?
Everyone has their own perfect song – and it’s probably terrible for everyone else. For me it could be anything – depends what mood I’m in. I think the new Janelle Monae is near perfect – she’s an amazing all-rounder, a brilliant entertainer who also makes amazing videos. Oh, and Laura Mvula – she’s wicked.
What do we learn about Dizzee Rascal by listening to Dizzee Rascal records?
That I’m open-minded and I’m a bit cheeky. I have a lot of energy and I try to add a story too. At times I’m rude and misogynistic, but I’ll balance it out too. So a song like Arse Like That is rude, but Good is about me wanting to treat a girl like a queen. I can do ignorant party tracks, but I can write songs about why there’s more to life than that too.
This is a grown-up Dizzee?
Yeah, definitely. I’m trying to draw on the positive sides, the fun I’ve been having and the places I’ve seen. Some artists are very depressing, so I try to be the opposite. Really, I want people to associate this album with good times for 10 years to come.
So The Fifth represents who you are right now?
Exactly, and that’s important. My first album was a representation of where I was back then – it was a dark, dark place – and this is the exact opposite. It’s been an amazing journey and I think a lot of people can relate to that.
What five records would we be guaranteed to hear at a Dizzee party?
Something by Snoop, for sure. Juicy J’s Bands Will Make Her Dance has got to be in there, and I’d definitely want some proper ignorant Uncle Luke stuff. Reverse Skydiving by Hot Natured would be bound to get a play, so would Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q’s Collard Greens. Chuck on Love Sosa by Chief Keef and that’s a party right there.
Finally – crucially – what’s your favourite noise?
Bass! It has to be bass – that’s the noise for me.