By Reed Fischer
By Anna Gulbrandsen
By Jeff Gage
By Stacy Schwartz
By Natalie Gallagher
By Erik Thompson
By Jeff Gage
By Loren Green
Boy in Da Corner
Dylan Mills is this year's Mike Skinner: a U.K.-garage-bred MC on the cusp of breaking through to a U.S. audience that might be reluctant to connect with him. But it won't be the accent or the grimy 2-step beats that could potentially scare timid listeners away from Boy in Da Corner--it'll be the neurosis.
Dizzee's Dirty South-via-East London flow straddles the line between commanding and panicky. Rattling with caffeine jitters and pot paranoia, his voice sometimes cracks as though he's about to burst into tears of frustration. The bookend tracks of Corner are the most emblematic of his clenched-fist introversion: The downbeat dancehall echo of "Sittin' Here" and the Chinese New Year dirge "Do It" Biggie-size his angst into ruminations of complete withdrawal and endless sleep. But when he directs that frustration outward, the tenor gets thrillingly hectic in a hurry; a reckless anxiety fuels his bitter diatribes against phony gangsters and unsavory girls. His breakthrough single, "I Luv U," conflates baby-mama drama with stalker-victim anxiety--a harangue that's tempered a bit when "Jezebel" puts the whore-slash-golddigger stereotype into an oddly empathetic and cautionary context. And his nothing-to-lose persona bolsters tracks like "Seems 2 Be" and "Fix Up Look Sharp," where his kamikaze cockneyisms threaten to get old-school fistfight retribution against rivals and deliver incendiary attacks on Scotland Yard.
Dizzee's staccato chopping-block shouts and drawn-out squawks almost slip out of his own grasp every so often, but each slip adds tension to his lyrical high-wire act. He plays off his flow's strengths and weaknesses with his own beats--rattling, shuffling, self-contained eruptions of stammering noise, crunk ColecoVision stutter-step, dancehall 45 rhythms wound down to 18 RPM. When you dance to it, the music feels like Pris's twitching death throes from Blade Runner; when you're sitting still, it feels like the words and the rhythms are taking turns booting your cortex, Beckham-style. The kid's got nerves, but he's got nerve as well.
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