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Dizzee Rascal – Boy in da Corner

30 05 2010

Listened: Friday May 28

I don’t remember how I heard about Dizzee Rascal – I probably read about him in Spin and had to hear what a 19-year-old black British rapper sounded like. The answer is: like absolutely nothing else. He raps incredibly fast and the music and samples have a sound like nothing I can think of, certainly not American rap. He wrote many of the songs in high school in computer labs and the sound of the beats bear that out. Having seen him at Coachella some years ago I can attest that he is an above-average freestyler – he made up several lengthy acapella raps on the spot. He also pushes the limits of your British slang knowledge, even if you know a lot already.

Dizzee has a lot of the normal rapping subject matter – sex, violence, ego – but is a bit more poetic about it than the usual. Jezebel is blunt portrayal of what can happen to girls with no self-esteem outside of their sexual abilities. I Luv U is a song you’ll be singing in your head for ages – Dizzee and a girl bait each other about how the other’s partner is cheating on them and why they should do something about it, all backed with a sample chanting “I I I I I I Luv U” and very computer generated beats.

This foray into a genre of music I don’t normally buy was worth it.

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U2 – Boy

30 05 2010

Listened: Friday May 28

Some people don’t realize Boy has two covers. The top one is the international cover (and the Boy is the same boy as on the later War album). The bottom one is the US cover. The story behind the change is that the record company thought the original was too pedophiliac for the US audience. Silly.

Luckily for me, a trip to Australia in high school coincided with my desire to purchase the last U2 album I didn’t yet own – Boy – so I own the international “real” version.

This album is both miles away from modern U2 and similar all at once. Lots of the guitar licks obviously have an early version of the signature “U2 sound”. However, the songs are punkier and less anthemic and funky than later U2. After I got familiar with Joy Division‘s catalog I could really hear their influence in early U2, especially the bass lines.

Thematically the lyrics touch on growing up and aging but not wanting to leave childhood behind:

“A boy tries hard to be a man”

“In the shadow, boy meets man”

“Into the heart, into the heart of a child, I can’t go back”

“A picture in gray, Dorian Gray”

“Boy, stupid boy, Don’t sit at the table, Until you’re able to.”

Boy is an album unashamed to be written and performed by 20 year olds, which, in a modern world so full of adults writing lyrics for teenagers, is refreshing.