If it feels like a long time ago that Dizzee Rascal first emerged as the caustic voice of Britain's underground grime scene, that's because it was – ten whole years.
Since Boy In Da Corner, the Bow native's four subsequent albums have grown progressively more hit-driven and fun, charting, perhaps, one young man's journey from London-induced angst to Miami-induced happiness. Now he’s back on home turf to promote Microsoft's new Surface 2 tablet, as well as the latest of those albums, The Fifth.
So what is life like now for Britain's most successful rapper of all time? Here he fills us in on working with Robbie Williams, bumping into Spike Lee and chasing American girls.
How does being in the US compare to the UK?
In Miami, there’s a buzz there, everyone out there’s partying – it’s crazy. When I first went there I was super excited about it, now I’m kind of more settled in. Even when I’m there I don’t just stay in Miami, I go to LA, New York, Houston... There’s a lot going on music-wise in LA. It’s a wicked place to wake up, there’s sunshine, you go to the studio, see all these really talented producers. It was a great way to do it; I’ve never made an album like that.
What was it like working with Robbie Williams?
He’s a cool guy. Obviously he’s a superstar, but then there’s this side to him that’s normal. Watching him record was really good – he’s one of the few artists that was there in person, a lot of it was done over file transfer. It was nice to hang out with another English guy – someone who understands the banter. It’s good to be with a veteran as well. He’s been at the top of his game for pretty much 20 years and he’s still really humble. It’s weird – I grew up seeing him on TV and then you’re standing in his house in his home studio, giving him pointers on how you want him to sing.
Who do you hang out with when you’re in the US?
I see [Good Charlotte’s] Benji Madden when I’m out there. Plan B if he’s there. In LA you can bump into anyone. I walked into the studio and Chris Brown was standing there with Spike Lee. It’s random to walk into one of these places and see people just there like: ‘Oh shit!’ But you’re all there doing the same thing.
What are the girls like out there?
Girls are a lot more superficial in LA. You don’t see the real side of things until you go into the real neighborhoods, the residential areas. LA is a lot more over-the top.
Any big romances...?
You mean who am I f**king?! No one you’ll know...
What albums have influenced you the most?
When I was growing up, it was All Eyes On Me by Tupac and Doggy Style by Snoop Dogg. I've met Snoop and he's the best. They say you shouldn’t meet your idol – that definitely doesn’t apply to him.
How do you get inspiration for songs?
‘Love this Town’ is obviously about London, but the first verse describes a birthday party I was at a couple years ago. It was the fist time in ages I’d been with all of the people I grew up with in one building, and I had a really good feeling after that. I didn’t end up writing about it for maybe a year, then when I was thinking about all the good stuff in London, that stuck with me. Sometimes you might get inspired by something, write about it, then later that lyrics sounds better on another beat. That’s happened a few times. Like ‘Dance Wiv Me’ – those lyrics didn’t start on that beat. You might think a song is done, until you go to a studio and hear a wicked beat, and you’re like: ‘Actually, that song was alright, but this song is a hit.’
Can you tell when something’s going to be a hit?
Yeah. When the shit's banging and smashing the speakers, you just know.