From high school troublemaker to hero of the underground grime scene to dominator of the UK charts, it’s been a heady ride to the top for Dizzee Rascal.
An only child, Dylan Mills was brought up by his Ghanaian mother, Priscilla, on an East London council estate, after his Nigerian father died when he was just two years old. The exact circumstances of his father’s death are still unknown to him. ‘There’s obviously something that’s gone on that’s been kept from me,’ Dizzee explains, ‘But it’s something my mum doesn’t like going into. It was hard to grow up not knowing, but I’ve got over it and just got on with life.
‘It’s easy to get confused about things as a kid,’ he adds, ‘Especially as all I really knew was that he died when I was two and I didn’t have any memories of him… but the older I get, the more I love and respect my mum for how she managed to raise me and carry me through. All my childhood she was studying law to be a legal secretary, and any honest thing possible to make money she did – cleaning jobs, selling clothes, being an Avon lady. She worked and worked and worked to put food on the table and pay the child minder, and she never missed a parents’ evening. So when I had my little stint of doing illegal stuff as a teenager, I wasn’t proud. That’s why I got out quick and did something honest instead.’
Dizzee admits to having had ‘a problem with authority’ in his teens, and was consequently expelled from several schools, at one of which he acquired the sobriquet from an exasperated teacher that would become his stage name. He found a way out of a life of crime by getting heavily involved in London’s burgeoning ‘grime’ scene, releasing his first record ‘I Luv U’ when he was 16. Blending venomous staccato wordplay with edgy subject matter and brutal beats, the tune paved the way for him to sign to London’s XL label (at that stage home to the White Stripes and the Prodigy), and then in August 2003 release the still-stunning Boy in da Corner, the album that would really make his name.
Recently, however, Dizzee’s music has moved boldly in the cheerier, poppier direction, especially with his latest album Tongue ’N Cheek, which went platinum and spawned four UK number one singles. This has led to some critics, inevitably, accusing him of selling out, which, needless to say, Dizzee doesn’t take lying down.
‘As much as people might think I was doing those early tunes just to show how deep I was, I was also making music that was appropriate to the situation I was in. If I went to a rave in those days – before all the hype started – the atmosphere would be really moody. It wasn’t the most sociable place to be, and that’s why the music sounds the way it does. But it wouldn’t be honest for me to write songs like that now, because I’m not in that situation any more. Besides, that sort of thing is okay if you’re 16 or 17, but it ain’t all that fun when you’re 25. Now I’d rather go to places where everyone’s happy, there are nice girls dressed up smart and you get a bit of ice in your glass.’
His newfound success has seen him hobnobbing with the great and the good of society, including none other than the third in line to the British throne, Prince Harry. Backstage at a concert in London’s Hyde Park, the Prince asked to meet Dizzee, claiming to be a huge fan of his summer dance floor anthem ‘Bonkers’. Dizzee willingly obliged, but without being too obsequious to his aristocratic admirer.
He explains, ‘Prince Harry came in and was joking around and being a bit cheeky, so I told him, “If you weren’t royalty I’d have punched you in the face by now,” and he seemed to like that. He’s a naughty boy, so he fits in. Him and his mates are probably a bit wilder than us!’
From teen tearaway to friend of the royals. Get down to Creamfields and see what the fuss is about.
Creamfields Abu Dhabi takes place at Yas Arena on December 9 from 6pm-4am. Tickets Dhs250 from www.timeouttickets.com
Pick of the mixers
It won’t just be Mr Rascal who’s appearing at the 10-hour dance music marathon. Here are some of the other acts on the bill
Ranked second in DJ Magazine’s 2010 poll of the planet’s hottest DJs (higher even than Dhabi-disappointer Tiësto), this deck-dominating Frenchman has cut tracks with everyone from Rihanna to Kylie Minogue. All this while orchestrating the crowds at the world’s top venues on a nightly basis, he is a man absolutely on top of his game.
Though he’s been mixing for the best part of a decade, it’s only in the past five years that this Englishman has established himself as a force to be reckoned with. The launch of his now-legendary podcast in 2006 proved to be the breakthrough moment, and these days he’s considered a true leviathan of the trance music scene.
Since the days of the UK’s underground warehouse party scene in the late ’80s, the man also known as Alexander Coe has been a colossus in dance music circles. During the ’90s when the scene moved into super-clubs, he was reportedly the highest earner out there. And his silky mixing skills are still packing in the fans.
Above & Beyond
Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness, and Paavo Siljamäki met while studying at Westminster University in London, forming a friendship based around partying until dawn. The trio has grown from being scruffy students to some of the most respected producers out there, renowned for mixing a deep trance sound with uplifting vocals.
Sander van Doorn
Dutchman Sander van Doorn will be your chance to see why DJs from the Netherlands are among the best out there. Sander is a master in the art of mixing and producing hypnotic trance tunes.
A British-born DJ specialising in the minimal beats and jazzy loops of the tech house sub-genre. Memorable mixes include his take on Radiohead’s ‘Reckoner’, transforming it into a complex, multi-layered anthem famed for sending entire dancefloors into sweaty, euphoric messes. For those unfamiliar with dance music scenarios, that’s a good thing.