The best thing to come out of Bow since the train out of Bow, it's nonetheless bewildering that Dizzee Rascal now finds himself on the verge of national treasure status. Rewind to 2002 when 17-year old plain Dylan Mills wrote I Luv U, his take-no-prisoners update on the age-old battle of the sexes ("it's a shame you got had by the whores!"), set against a squelching bass and chattering drums. It sounded like nothing else on earth, and shone a light on east London's emerging grime scene at a time when the rest of the country thought grime was probably a job best left for Mr Muscle.
Before 2007's Concert for Diana, Princes William and Harry submitted to an interview with Fearne Cotton, who asked them what kind of music they liked. "Chart toppers … poppy music … good old fashioned bands … listen to anything," they waffled, clearly men for whom music is just something other people play in the background when they happen to be in the room, which makes events backstage at this years' Wireless festival in Hyde Park seem even more incredible. In a scene apparently scripted by Ricky Gervais, then rejected for being too excruciating, Prince Harry once more evinced his unique take on race relations by striding into Dizzee Rascal's dressing room offering a "street handshake".
On his first proper LP, Dizzee Rascal claimed, "If I had the guts to end it all, believe I would," and would go on to say that In Utero is his favorite album of all-time, but I think it's safe to say that was an artistic judgment call as opposed to an endorsement of a particular career path. Dizzee's embrace of success and fame has directly coincided with his actual accrual of both, and if Maths + English tentatively sought to establish him as a globetrotting good-life playboy, Tongue N' Cheek takes that guise to its logical extreme. At first glance, Tongue N' Cheek would appear to be Dizzee's slightest work-- 11 tracks, about 40 minutes, self-released, silly title, sillier cover.
Hands up who has ever wondered what Dizzee Rascal’s penis looks like? If you had to say do you think it looks more like a banana or a didgeridoo? The answer is apparently both. Tongue ‘N’ Cheek takes great pleasure in telling everyone who hasn’t sampled a night of pleasure at chez Rascal (about two per cent of the female world, his rhymes would suggest) just what it’s like in graphic detail. Much has been made about how Tongue ‘N’ Cheek is Dizzee Rascal’s ‘pop’ album and that he’s seizing an opportunity to get number one singles and sell out arenas.
Over the course of his career, Dizzee Rascal has rarely been afraid to stand out from the pack. From squeaky-voiced East London youth to hardscrabble Southern hip-hop fetishist, Rascal has tried on new personas the way that most emcees try on sneakers. And while he may have flirted with mainstream sounds on his last two albums, he’s never made an earnest grab for pop stardom… until now.