Boy in da Corner is the debut album by Dizzee Rascal and was released on the 21st July 2003 by the XL recording label. It featured Wiley, God’s Gift and Taz on vocals. Production duties were handled by Dizzee, Chubby Dread, Moulders, Mr. Cage, Taz and Vanguard. It’s extremely important due to being the first grime album ever released; preceding Wiley’s very own debut album by almost a year. Hailed as one of the greatest grime albums ever, this review will look at whether it stands up on its own today as well as appreciating the tracks that Rascal dropped on the project; with some of them still holding up as elite grime songs in the modern day, however a fair few are forgettable songs that wouldn’t really hold up to the modern sound of grime.
Boy in da Corner was performed in full back in 2016 at both New York and London. Critics called it ageless and praised it’s continuing influence on grime. The continuing influence it has on grime is definitely noticeable; the use of samples and distorted bass/ drums and vocals can all be found in both modern grime and this album. In terms of being ageless; I believe that’s a stretch. Boy in da Corner is definitely beginning to show its age in my opinion; there is a natural progression to the genre in terms of creativity and I do think recent projects have gone on to represent and express grime in more unique and creative ways than this album. That’s not to say it doesn’t deserve the respect of every grime fan of course. There are fifteen tracks on the album and a lack of interludes, vastly different to the debut album of Dizzee’s main rival in grime at the time - Wiley.
The first four tracks feature Rascal without any verses contributed from other artists. Jeanine Jacques provides vocals in the chorus to I Luv U. Mr. Cage assists Rascal on the production. Sittin’ Here, Stop Dat, I Luv U and Brand New Daymanage to bring enough energy and memorable lines and beats to draw the listener in. I Luv U is of course a very popular grime classic that holds its own against other grime songs even today. Newer fans of grime may recognise I Luv U from the sample used in Stormzy’s Know me From single released in 2015. Sittin’ Here brings with it a deep and compelling subject matter; with Dizzee as a sixteen year old already displaying cynicism towards his area and how it’s essentially a wheel of crime and poverty that keeps on spinning. I Luv U sees the artist bitterly describing a relationship that is bad for both of the partners but keeps going because of their promise to each other of ‘I love you’. For a sixteen year old, Rascal was already tackling important societal topics and bringing a fresh, younger feel to it all. That’s what sets up Boy in da Corner up so well.
The next four tracks - 2 Far, Fix Up Look Sharp, Cut ‘em Off and Hold ya Mouf continue the high energy and bring a vibrant feeling production wise. Fix up, Look Sharp is undoubtedly the best of the album for me. 2 Far and Hold ya Mouf are decent tracks, Cut ‘em Off felt too overproduced. The subject matter continues with the themes of the first four tracks; with Dizzee explaining his violent behaviour as being a result of people pushing him too far. Hold ya Mouf features a great feature from God’s Gift. Ultimately however the quality slips slightly here in my opinion, apart from the personal favourite Fix Up, Look Sharp.
Boy in da Corner’s second half starts with Round we Go. Round we Go sees Rascal offering his opinions on the youth of the time, passing on sexual partners with barely a thought instead of sticking to one person. The following track Jus’ a Rascal is another song that heavily holds its own against modern grime; owing to the catchy hook. Adding to that it features much better verses from Rascal than on a lot of the other songs. Wot U On deals with Rascal reciting a real life experience of threats sent between him and some unknown person. Jezebel stands out for giving Rascal’s opinion on young women who are promiscuous and sexually active - ending up with children they have to raise as a single mother who will go on to become just like her, continuing the cycle. With a high rate of underage pregnancies in the UK even today, this track remains relevant to the modern era which is why I rate it much higher than most of the tracks.
The next few tracks, Seems 2 Be, Live O and Do It! finish the album off well enough. There’s a definite drop in quality from the first half to the second half which is a shame but the listener comes away with the knowledge Rascal had potential to go onto bigger and better things - which he obviously did.
Overall Boy in da Corner made history so it’d be sly for anyone to try and overlook it or dismiss it. Having said that, my personal opinion is that grime projects done by other artists around the similar time and in the next few years after were far better. Dizzee Rascal definitely has an ear for good beats and the consistently-decent production from Mr. Cage deserves a mention but to say it’s one of the best grime albums made as a lot of critics did (and still do today!) is not an opinion I share.