Bartenders take note: Dizzee Rascal would like his champagne served in the traditional fashion when he returns to Australia to play Groovin The Moo this week. The East London rapper’s latest album, entitled The Fifth, came out in September, and introduced the 28-year-old to a range of new experiences.
“This was the first one I actually did in America, jumping from studio to studio, working with different big producers and other pop artists,” he says. “I’ve never done that before; everything has always been done at home or in-house up to this one. Going to the clubs out there and seeing the music in its environment can be an absurdity – the crazy, over-the-top-ness, especially within the music industry. I’ve seen things like that in London, don’t get me wrong, but when there’s a line of 15 girls with 15 bottles of champagne with sparklers in them that cost a few grand each, or a girl in a rubber dinghy delivering champagne to a table full of fucking drug dealers and rap superstars in the middle of a club while they play the Superman music, it’s a bit much, you know?
“I’m just kind of starting to understand [America] a little bit, so I was linking up with people there, and it just felt nice to record out there and be out of the way. And then obviously – in LA especially – there is a lot of big music being made there; it’s one of the key music places, as well as Atlanta and a few other spots. But LA is the serious one – when you’re there you can bump into anyone. I walked into the studio one day and Chris Brown was there talking to Spike Lee. There’s random shit like that, know what I mean? [My music] was always influenced by American music, but the last few years I’ve spent more time there, on my own even. From 2002 I’ve always spent time there to do shows or a few little tours, but it was always just in and out. All I knew about America was just from TV, music and movies, and it wasn’t until the last few years that I actually got to absorb it.”
A seasoned touring artist and grime pioneer, Rascal is confident of putting on a good show.
“There’s lots of energy in our show, and we’ll be bringing it all to Australia,” he says. “There’ll be material from all my albums, from the first up to The Fifth … For the festivals, it’s all the big stuff; things that will work in a festival environment. Big sing-alongs and things that will make people jump up and down, basically. [The new material has] been going down alright. To be fair, we played a lot of the stuff before it came out anyway. A lot of it was debuted in Australia as well, and it’s going to be nice to come back there after the album has actually been out and people have got to absorb it, so I’m looking forward to it. The thing is, for the last few albums, because of the time of year they have been ready to be put out, the music was tested out in Australia and New Zealand first.”
Despite having been a recording artist since the age of 16, and already a veteran of the scene at 28, Rascal still feels the pressure of releasing new material.
“There’s always pressure,” he says. “It’s always one of the most stressful things, anticipating how it’s going to do and all that. But once it’s all over, I just want to get stuck in and do it all again. I know what it’s like, but just love doing it and seeing how far I can go. If it works, wicked. If not, I’ll try something new. There’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve got a big tune and when you play it live it’s not quite going that way, and everyone’s looking at their watches. That’s never any good. You got to work harder to perform those songs and get them across, but you live and you learn, innit? Some songs don’t come across as well live either; some are better for radio or albums, and vice versa as well.”
While his earlier career was peppered with controversy, mainly surrounding an alleged feud with fellow grime MC Crazy Titch, Rascal insists the future is all that matters.
“I’m just trying to make good decisions and stay out of trouble,” he says. “The biggest thing for me is just trying to not do too much dumb shit – that’s what ruins a lot of artists in this day and age especially. Information gets out there so quickly and people can change their minds about you so quickly. Sometimes it works in your favour, because a lot of people seem to like the whole fucking reality TV idiot thing, but people can get really tired of you quickly as well. The best thing to do is to stay out of the way and let the music do the talking.”
Dizzee Rascal will be playing Groove In The Moo on Saturday April 26 at Maitland showground.