Maths + English
As poster boy for the U.K.'s grime movement (due to his eclectically infectious electro-rap-garage mix and deliciously unpredictable flow), Dizzee Rascal has nonetheless followed the well-trod career arc of the typical U.S rap phenom. His fresh first album hit the scene like a bomb, and his follow-up mastered his unique aesthetic, but failed to innovate. Now a third offering (available in the U.S. only by download, unfortunately) finds him stuck in the mud with tires spinning, both a retread and a watered-down version of his once-novel personae, dangerously close to becoming a caricature of himself. Fortunately for Rascal, even a pale facsimile shows extended flashes of innovation; in the end, the biggest disappointment of Maths + English is that it lacks the magic of Boy in Da Corner and the unstoppable craftsmanship of Showtime.
Highlights include the unlikely collaboration with the always-tight UGK on "Where Da G's," the smoothed-out soul vibe of "Feelin'," and the spazz-out anthem "Hard Back (Industry)." Dizzee's flow, once so revolutionary and passionate, falls too often into predictable (almost nursery-rhyme simple) structures; his content, still packed with clever constructions, lacks the urgency and focus of earlier offerings. Even more disappointing are the purely awful examples of unfortunate misogyny ("Flex") and annoying writing ("Suk My Dick"). Ornery without good reason, Dizzee's still got charisma and talent for weeks, but these days he just doesn't know where to channel them. Someone please give this guy a legitimate reason to feel alienated again.