“Yeah, I’ve been looking forward to this one. You’re the grime guy, innit, so don’t hold back... I wanna clear some shit up anyway.” Of all the musicians on my ‘to interview’ list, Dizzee Rascal, a British institution in and of himself, has always been up there. But even with all the chances I’ve had to do so over the years, it never felt like the right time. Dizzee was out of my realm now—or so it seemed—more suited for TV talk shows and red-tops than some UK music critic. He had fully gone clear. However, ever since he dropped his 2017 LP, Raskit, there’s been a feeling that he was gravitating back towards his roots, the sounds that made it possible for him to enter the pop arena and have number one hits with the likes of James Corden and Calvin Harris. Now, it was time.

Would he want to talk about his turbulent relationship with grime, his old friend Wiley, getting stabbed in Ayia Napa and the years he left the scene to go mainstream? I knew that if I didn’t ask these questions—as awkward as they might seem—I would be doing not only myself a disservice, but the entire scene that he helped to build. A scene that would not be shining as brightly as it is today without the barrier-breaking contributions of Dizzee and his peers. The main point of our conversation, though, was to promote his seventh studio album, E3 AF. On first impression, the title would suggest that he is E3 ‘As F*ck’, Bow to the bone, but that couldn’t be further from the mark. The phrase ‘Aff’ was (and in some places, still is) a derogatory term for African people but the man born Dylan Mills in East London has been proudly screaming he’s an “E3 African” for a number of years on songs. E3 AF finds a Dizzee at his most comfortable—on the beats, most of which he produced himself, and in life more generally. 

Dizzee, today, is proud of all his achievements. He’s proud of “I Luv U’”s staying power and being the first grime MC to win a Mercury Prize for Boy In Da Corner. He’s proud of what he did in the commercial world, too. And you would be: Mills is now a multi-millionaire off the back of those “pop days”, and you can only but respect it. Though the grime scene felt neglected by him at one point (“I feel like the scene abandoned me!”), the respect for the countless doors he opened will always override that for most.

First speaking with Dizzee via Zoom and again at our photoshoot in East London, he answered all the questions he felt needed to be addressed for his next phase to flourish the way it deserves to. This is Dizzee Rascal: reloaded.

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