It's been 13 years since Dizzee Rascal's explosive debut album Boy In Da Corner landed on record store shelves. 13 years! Can you believe that? It seems like only yesterday the futuristic beats and baselines found on tracks like I Luv U and Stop Dat were rattling sound systems in Ford Escorts and blessing ears of underground club goers throughout the UK. Something about revisiting grime's first masterpiece at a sold out show that saw Dizzee play the album in its entirety at London's Copper Box Arena−painted yellow and black− felt like home.
After performing Boy In Da Corner in its entirety at an intimate New York show back in May with the help of the Red Bull Music Academy, it was then thanks to the same academy and a petition put together by grime journalist Laura Brosnan (@hyperfrank), as well as of course some serious demand from the fans, that Dizzee's homecoming performance actually happened. Taking place at the home of the London Lions basketball team, the Copper Box Arena is situated in Hackney Wick, right next to Dizzee's home district of Bow. Sold out in minutes, the 7,500 cap venue was full to the brim with ravers drinking, skanking and celebrating a true British institution.
Following DJ support from both DJ MK and Slimzee, from the moment the curtain dropped on Dizzee's set things got serious very quickly. Revisiting the now iconic album cover, Dizzee emerged literally sat in the corner of a mock up yellow room. With the opening bars to Sittin' Here − "I'm just sittin' here, I ain't sayin' much I just think/ My eyes don't move left or right, they just blink" − came a cohesive wave of screaming that felt electrifying.
Everyone in the room felt like family. Everyone was reliving a moment in time, a moment in their life that felt as close to the real thing as humanly possible 13 years on. Although the introspective look at the streets of London and life as a British youth has never felt so real. Grime was really only just scratching the surface of popularity back in 2003, the culture now is a monster. It's like a tribe dancing to the sound of one beat. Seeing new and old fans unified and screaming "wagwan" at the top of their lungs was a thing of beauty and actually made you proud to be British.
Of course, once I Luv U blasted through the speakers all bets were off with regards to whether or not everyone in attendance still had a cup in their hands. With the first pull up of the night, those that had already thrown their drink in the air were snatching at any spare cup they could find to toss up again as soon the baseline and cutting claps of one of grime's much loved tracks echoed through the arena for a second time.
After a well documented fallout that spans back years to when Dizzee was stabbed in Aiya Napa, fans hoping for a Dizzee Rascal and Wiley reunion on 2 Far were unfortunately left hoping, even though earlier this year Wiley stated that he would be up for a reunion with his once Roll Deep brother. But while Dizzee wasn't joined on stage by his fellow artist there were plenty in attendance, including JME and Lily Allen.
Fix Up, Look Sharp incited a musical riot that saw a community of concert goers dapping one another up. Hugging, kissing, shouting, you name it, it all went down - rhyming Tropicana with banana has never been so much fun. Then aside from album stand outs Wot U On and Jezebel - essentially Dizzee's version of 2Pac's Wonda Why They Call U Bitch - the biggest reaction on the night was always going to be for Jus A Rascal.
The infamous guitar riff took fans back to the days of Channel U when in the video Dizzee was seen posing on a boat on the Thames whilst switching up flows at an alarming rate proving that Brits do have skill as well as their own identity. This time however he was on stage and his fans were the water keeping him afloat with their relentless energy that showed no signs of slowing down.
Witnessing Dizzee Rascal perform Boy In Da Corner in its entirety should be a law brought into power by the British government. A genre-defining moment that soundtracked the lives of so many people, it helped birth a new sound and moulded a culture British urban youths can finally call their own. Last night was special. Dizzee performed non-stop for 15 straight songs, said his thanks, exited the stage and left 2003 in the wind. Undeniably one of British music's true greats, if you weren't at the Copper Box Arena last night you missed out, and you may never get another opportunity to see it again.
Next up? According to Laura Brosnan she wants to get Mike Skinner to do The Streets' Original Pirate Material. Now that really would be a blast from the past.
Will Lavin is a hip-hop music and lifestyle Specialist of 10 years. A 2015 IMC Award winner, he's written for publications such as VIBE, XXL, Complex and Blues & Soul. He's worked with artists such as Chaka Khan, Timbaland, will.i.am. and Chris Brown. He also runs illwill.co.uk.