It feels like only yesterday when, on Christmas Day in 2003, I slowly unravelled the Christmas paper away from a thin, square-like object. I unwrapped it anxiously, and there it was: a striking golden-yellow CD cover with you huddled in a corner, decked-out in Nike from head to toe. It was almost like a scene from Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and depending on who you talk to, I'm either Charlie Bucket or Verruca Salt. I made my excuses and ran up to my room with my golden ticket. I carefully opened the cover and slid the bright yellow CD into my little Sony player. The rumbling bass and icy synths echoed around my hot-pink bedroom as the sombre "Sittin 'Ere" dragged me through your world of harsh realities.
I think I'm getting weak because my thoughts are too strong...
At the time, I had literally just lost my mother to a 12-month fight with cancer and moved into a place with my dad and his new family. A lot of revelations were coming to the surface and I was fucking angry, to say the least. I was totally annoyed at the world for taking away the one person I loved, and the only person who truly loved me back. You could say that I was done with living—done with making an effort with anyone or anything—until I pressed play on Boy In Da Corner. You spoke to me in a way that no counselling session had come close to, and in a way that fully understood. While you dissected the street politics of E3, we were both experiencing a massive change and wished we could turn back the hands of time to a happier place.
While this wasn't my first experience of listening to grime, sliding into Track 2, you threw me back to the first time I heard a pirate radio set. Stop dat! Start dat! Get dat! What! I was in the hall of my secondary school which was smack-in-the-middle of nowhere in Hertfordshire. A friend's cousin had given her a tape he had recorded of a Roll Deep set; I don't even know who was DJing or what the instrumentals were, but those lyrics you so passionately sprayed left me completely speechless. Whatever I just heard, I had to hear more.
"Jezebel" is an awkward one: an old school friend of mine would always sing the line, Juiced every boy in the ends / She's had a bit of drink so she's acting kind of slow, she came with Natasha but she's leaving with Joe. She was quite sexually active from a young age and would regularly get me into frustrating situations that ended up in us being chased by somebody's girlfriend (and her 97 friends). One day, that friend called me up and told me she was pregnant. She was quite far gone and said that she needed to go to Brixton ASAP to have an emergency abortion. Can you imagine me being nearly 16 living in a small town, an hour away from London and another to Bricky, and having to trek to an unknown ends with her? I went, but she didn't want me around which left me quite a few hours to burn.
I remember walking around Brixton market while she was in the clinic, listening deeply to your album. Boy In Da Corner was the soundtrack to my childhood; even now, when "I Luv U" drops in Eskimo Dance or a boujee West End nightclub, your classic break-up song switches snobby looks to screwfaces, voguing hands to gun-fingers. So when the news broke about you performing the entire album for Red Bull Music Academy, I was ecstatic, rushing to my computer to cop a ticket before it quickly sold out. But that was before I read the fine print, and realised it was happening nearly 4,000 miles away from me in New York City. As a huge supporter of your music, I'd love to see you revisit this album again in London. Spurred on by a miniature hissy fit, I created an online petition to show you that—whilst you might not think it—us grime stans still love and appreciate you for creating such a timeless body of work.
So, Dyl, whaddya say?
Laura (and the 500-plus signees of this petition).