The tenth anniversary of Lethal Bizzle's debut album, Against All Oddz, passed without so much as a nostalgic Instagram post or commemorative tweet this past weekend — no exhaustive radio documentary or weighty excavations like we'd seen previously with Dizzee Rascal and the other landmark projects from grime's greatest.
Listening back, Against All Oddz was solid, balancing head-rushing cuts like "What We Do" and "No" with the poise of tracks like "Should Of Known" as well as its title track. And yet, for all its promise, it barely scraped into the top 90. Then again, the man born Maxwell Ansah has never really been an album guy. Grime's most successful singles act has yet to see a project breach the top 70, and you know what? It doesn't really matter. The relative quietness around Against All Oddz has been somewhat of a blessing for the Walthamstow MC: it's allowed him to zero-in on what he excels at, whilst remaining free from the "curse of the classic debut."
As a result, Bizzle has remained totally unburdened from the boxes and boundaries fans hurl on a Dizzee or Kano who, for all their success, have yet to shrug off the overcasting figures of their first albums. This relative flexibility and freedom has bestowed Lethal with a loyal charter of fans more in-tune with him, and his persona. This is a set-up that allows him to move painlessly from "Rari Workout" with Jme and Tempz to having Robbie Williams shuffle around to "Fester Skank" — all with his integrity firmly intact.
With grime's recent uptake across the pond, the dispute about whether it aught to be tagged as just another branch of the hip-hop family tree, has again resurfaced. There are similarities, but if grime is to be recognised as a genre unto its own — separate from hip-hop entirely — then Lethal typifies its departure. Full-length LPs have never held the same credence in grime as they do in rap, with the former still close to the West Indian soundsystem culture that birthed it. Even now, in 2015, there's still a heavy focus on the live element — drawing reactions in a rave or at a live show—and this is where Lethal has remained proficient.
He was arguably the first grime MC to take the DIY ethos to social media.
"Pow" is arguably grime's most famous anthem, but it didn't make the cut for Against All Oddz. Yet, and still, the words "It's Leth to the Bizzle records!" are enough to shut down any and every rave across the country. As grime has expanded, so has its arenas, and although Lethal has since moved on from pirate radio and East London youth clubs, his ideals have remained the same and tracks like "Leave It Yeah", "Pow" (2004 and 2011) and "Fester Skank" tear down festival season, summer after summer. If he hadn't realised these things a long time ago, Bizzle wouldn't be the successful businessman he is today. Since 2005, he has steadily built around his cult following and was arguably the first grime act to take the DIY ethos to social media.
"Social media is my office, that's my workplace," Bizzle told NTFR in a recent interview. "It really pays when you can talk to your consumer directly." Lethal has always had a reputation amongst his peers for being a bit of a workhorse and the visibility permitted by social media has only further shed light on that obsessive streak.
Then, there's the "Dench" phenomenon. The phrase he and footballing cousin Frimpong coined whilst battling it out on FIFA, made its way to Instagram and Twitter and before long, Bizzle had moulded it into a successful clothing line, a national tour, and a string of summer parties in Malia and Kavos. The phrase even made its way into Scrabble and the momentum saw Lethal entrusted with penning the official England song for Euro 2012. Dench typifies why Mr. Bizzle has attained longevity in an unforgiving industry.
Lethal Bizzle has never just been about the music, instead using his cunning ways to connect with generation after generation, penetrating pop culture in a way that no other grime MC has. It's that type of hustle and tact that explains his presence here in 2015, and why he will most likely still be around in 2025.