Dylan Mills, better known as Dizzee Rascal, celebrates 20 years since the release of Boy In Da Corner – his debut album, and one of the most influential grime records in history – by embarking on a live arena tour. And its Welsh leg in Cardiff’s Utilita Arena didn’t disappoint: tonight’s live show has a triple-whammy of support acts, starting with Cardiff’s very own Mace The Great, bassline MC Window Kid, and Bradford rap trio Bad Boy Chiller Crew.
Arriving at the Utilita Arena in Cardiff, it’s suddenly very evident how loved the East London rapper is by every demographic, with a crowd varying from glammed-up women to tracksuited teens – even fathers with kids who must be barely more than half the age of the celebratory album. Not many grime artists have made such inroads into the mainstream as Dizzee, thanks to the eclectic discography he holds.
Casually perched on a black and yellow backdrop, Dizzee fittingly opens the live show with BIDC’s opening track Sittin’ Here, causing a sea of phones to rise, before he greets us with “Oi Cardiff! What the fuck’s happenin’?” Immediately exploding into Stop Dat, alongside his live MC Scope, both bounce around the stage like bunnies as the visuals ignite: flashing imagery of Dizzee, in profile and dancing; lyrics flashing along on the screen with red and yellow lights.
Following closely to the original Boy In Da Corner album order, I Luv U’s the third song to come, and a definite highlight, the heavy bassline almost bursting my eardrums as its original video flickers on the backing screen along with early-00s Nokia phones. Seeing Dizzee’s 18-year-old self in the background was the perfect reminder of how far the Bow artist has come, two decades after the release of an album which won him the Mercury Prize later that year.
At one point, Dizzee instructs a screaming contest between the two sides of the crowd, ordering us to yell “fuck that side!” at each other (my side sadly lost, despite me almost losing my voice in the process). The rapper then shoutouts his scratching DJ MK, who has had some impeccable scrubbing tonight – not a feat you see much at mainstream shows nowadays.
The second half of the show sees Dizzee bring in his poppier bangers, much to everyone’s delight, with the crowd going ballistic as soon as Bassline Junkie opens. “I love coming to Wales man, we need to come to Wales more!” he informs the crowd, and near the end, after a rendition of Florence And The Machine crossover You Got The Dirtee Love, it erupts into Bonkers – moshpits setting off in every direction, making it obvious nobody wanted the set to end.
Sweaty, pounding ears, aching feet from jumping around so much – and I left this show with a grin on my face. However, there was a further heartbreaking context: Dizzee’s mother, Priscilla, had passed away less than 48 hours before this Cardiff date. Most performers, you imagine, would have postponed a show in these circumstances – understandably so – but I have the utmost respect for Dizzee, for pulling up and putting on one of the most energetic performances I’ve seen.
Dizzee Rascal, Utilita Arena Cardiff, Sat 7 Oct
words INDIA MUNDAY photos JON HERRON