Dizzee Rascal

The global face of the UK’s grime music scene, Dizzee Rascal rode the late 1990s wave of electronic dance music to become one of the idiom’s first major artists to achieve pop stardom. He was born Dylan Mills in London in 1984; his father died when he was young and he was raised by his mother, a Ghanaian immigrant. Through school, Mills frequently found himself in trouble with teachers and the law. Expelled from four schools, at the fifth Mills found a music teacher who encouraged him to make music on a school computer. By the age of fourteen, as Dizzee Rascal, he had become a drum and bass DJ and began appearing on pirate radio stations. In 2002, Rascal joined the Roll Deep Crew and released his first major track, “I Luv U.” Featuring a dark and bass-heavy take on garage, the song became an instant underground hit and constructed the mold for later grime. His first album, 2003’s  Boy in da Corner, was received positively, debuted on the UK Top 40 album chart, and won him the Mercury Prize. In 2004, he made his American debut in Brooklyn and recorded his follow-up,  Showtime. The album eclipsed the success of his first and allowed him to expand his sound and involve high-profile pop and hip-hop artists on 2007’s  Maths + English. Through 2017, Rascal recorded and released three more albums through his own Dirtee Stank label. Established as a mediator between the underground and major labels, Rascal’s personal oeuvre and promoted artists did much to infuse British pop music in the early twenty-first century with a politics built on the racialization of minority groups and dynamic multiculturalism.