In Conversation With:

It’s been over three years since Dizzee’s last album. In the time since, he’s installed a studio in the comfort of his own home and watched his kids begin to grow.

Now, after meticulously working on the production of his eighth studio album, Don’t Take It Personal, Original Shift sat down with the iconic MC to learn all about the personal process that created his comeback sound.

“When I listened back to my last album, I realised it just needed to sound bigger…”

During that time of reflection,  Dizzee worked to re-release Boy in Da Corner, the explosive album that transformed Dizzee from the sound of pirate radio to a legitimate MC helping to forge Grime’s origin story. The album is often held up as the ultimate Grime album, acting like a blueprint for those looking to break through. It was the first Grime album to win a Mercury award, and to this day, Dizzee was one of the youngest ever artists to win the award. The significance of him doing so in that era of music can not be overlooked.

Over the years, Dizzee has released track after track that make audiences react in a certain way. At first it was tracks like ‘i luv u’ and ‘fix up look sharp’, with the latter making its way onto the original Fifa Street soundtrack, which for many including us, unlocks a core childhood memory whenever it’s played. For the next generation, songs like Bonkers and Holiday evoke a different memory for each listener, perhaps a certain time in their lives where everything just felt right. They are designed to play live, and evoke a collective emotional response of euphoria and happiness.

“The best crowd can be even better than recording the music. It always gives me a bunch of energy and reminds me about why I’m doing this”

Two decades later, he understood that the journey back to these roots would be a challenging one. New music wouldn’t be recorded quickly like his pirate days, despite going clear and building a home studio, but he was no longer a clash rapper going legit. He’s a dad-of-two making music through a different mindset.

Since the studio was at home, it offered a different kind of creative environment. His neighbour – who just happens to be Not3s – could drop round to record in an instant. To create the instrumentals, Dizzee would host various members of Jamiroquai in his front room. He was constantly surrounded by creativity, and found himself more focused than ever before.

With that close proximity came a sharpened focus on the production of every track. Dizzee admits that the production of his albums had often been a secondary thought compared to the time he takes on lyrics. But for this album, Dizzee left no beat unturned.

“There were certain beats that were mixed over 20 times, and I was much more involved in the production than ever before”

With this attention to detail came an ability to spot creative opportunities that he’d never been able to before. When searching for samples, he’d listen to countless demos before finally landing on the perfect one. The DJ,  insisted it was from years ago, that it wasn’t even finished. But Dizzee knew this was the sound he was looking for, the sound that helped him breakthrough two decades before.

In creating his new album, Dizzee went in search of those basslines that dominate live events. From the start of his career, tracks that open at 140 BPM have been commonplace. There was no change here.

But the music only goes so far, lyrics still count for double as an MC. For tracks like What You Know About That, Dizzee drafted in JME, D Double E and Turno to ensure it could reach its full potential. In his own words, Dizzee prefers to work with risk-takers, those who never settle for what the industry thinks of them, or those who aren't afraid to dismiss bureaucracy and rewrite the rules. JME was so invested in the work that Dizzee received his verse the same night.

“The beats are made for certain people. It might be a little bit too much risk for other artists. They might be looking for a hit, I’m looking to take a risk”

While Dizzee’s latest album adopts new artists and new risks, it feels like he’s back to the sound that made him famous. Now with two decades of creative experience behind him, he’s emerged from being the Boy in Da Corner to a highly-experienced artist responsible for each element of the album’s creation. His new album, Don’t Take It Personal, isn’t one you’ll want to miss.

“With this new album, it felt like I was going back to making exactly what I wanted”