Dylan Kwabena Mills (born 1 October 1985), better known by his stage name Dizzee Rascal, is an English rapper, MC, songwriter and record producer withAfrican roots in Ghana and Nigeria.
His music is a blend of grime, garage, hip hop, rap, electronic and R&B. Best known for his number-one hits "Dance wiv Me," "Bonkers," "Holiday," "Dirtee Disco" & "Shout," his debut album, Boy in da Corner, won him the 2003 Mercury Prize. Follow-up albums Showtime, Maths + English and Tongue n' Cheek have all been critically acclaimed and certified gold, the last going platinum for sales exceeding 300,000 units in the United Kingdom
Mills' Nigerian father died when he was young, and he was raised in Bow, in the East End of London in a single-parent family by his Ghanaian mother Priscilla, about whom he says: "I had issues as a kid. I was violent and disruptive. The way my mum helped was by finding me a different school every time I got kicked out, always fighting to keep me in the school system."
He attended a series of schools in East London, and was expelled from four of them, including St Paul's Way Community School. He also went to Langdon Park Secondary School in East London. Reportedly, it was around this time that first called him "Rascal," by a teacher. Cagey about exactly what Mills' youthful "madnesses" entailed, in early interviews he mentioned fighting with teachers, stealing cars, and robbing pizza delivery men. In the fifth school he was excluded from all classes except music. He also used to attend YATI (Young Actors Theatre Islington).
He began making music on the school's computer, encouraged by a music teacher, Mr Smith, and during the summer holidays attended a music workshop organised by Tower Hamlets Summer University of which he is now a patron. His mother bought him his first turntables.
He was a childhood friend of Nigerian footballer Danny Shittu, whom Mills described as "like a big brother."
Music and style
Dizzee Rascal once told author Ben Thompson in an interview with the Sunday's Observer magazine that “everything I do is for the music – I want to master it likeBruce Lee mastered martial arts."
His music is a mixture of UK Garage and hip-hop beats with an extremely broad palette of influences, ranging from metal guitars to drill and bass synth lines,eclectic samples and even Japanese court music. Dizzee Rascal also makes extensive use of un-coupled octuplets and double and triple couplets in his machine-gun-paced staccato lyrics. Like mostgrime artists, he uses "beats born of ringtones, video games and staticky pirate-radio sounds" Dizzee's tracks are traditional grime in that the beats are often asymmetrical and make it difficult to dance to his music. His vocal performance is also distinctive; he uses a fast style of rapping which blends elements from garage MCing, conventional rap, grime and ragga. He raps about the same issues a confused generation of youth tends to; broken family, faithless mentors and a lack of support. Dizzee's videos are similar to many grime and garage artists in the UK. They are frenetic and fast, often matching the speed of the rapping; this is especially visible in the videos to "Fix Up, Look Sharp" and "I Luv U." Although his fast style of rapping and his subject matter are nothing more than ordinary in the UK, Dizzee Rascal's diversity nonetheless separates him from other UK rappers. In his song "Brand New Day," Dizzee Rascal used "flat, punching out riddims into cheap PC software, beats born of ringtones, video games, and staticky pirate-radio sounds." In "Jus' a Rascal," he uses "T.O.K.'s hysterical dancehall harmonies, a synthesised guitar line halfway between death metal and English Beat, stuttering Southern hi-hats and a kick drum retarded to a crawl."
Dizzee Rascal worked closely with his mentor Wiley, who created one of the first grime tracks, called "Eskimo." Grime is today still considered underground, despite Dizzee's large mainstream exposure. Dizzee's DJ, DJ Semtex, says, "the biggest conflict I have is with major labels because they still don’t get it." Andy Bennett and Jon Stratton highlight in the book Britpop and the English Music Tradition (2010) how Rascal alongside Sway and M.I.A. created music that explored new soundscapes with new technologies, with lyrics expressing anger at Britain's "racialized" subordination of minority groups and that the innovation that generates new musical forms like grime and dubstep that are, inevitably, politically engaged. The chart success of grime-influenced artists like Rascal is heralded as a signal in the way that white Britons are adapting to a new multicultural and plural musical mix in contrast to previous bands.
Experimenting with his decks and styles, he became an amateur DJ, making occasional appearances on a local pirate radio station. Aged 16, he self-produced his first single, "I Luv U." In 2002, he jointly formed the Roll Deep Crew, a 13-piece garage collective, with former school friends. Signed by the XL record label, he signed an additional solo deal.
During his early career, Dizzee worked with his mentor Wiley to create the song 'We Ain't Having It' (which never got released on any albums) and also rapped on some 'Sidewinder' recordings. He made some instrumentals including 'Go' and 'Ho' and 'Streetfighter' which used some music from a video game. Dizzee had an ongoing feud, from late 2002, with fellow popular underground Grime MC Crazy Titch, which began when a fight broke out between the pair during a set on the popular pirate radio station Deja Ju FM. The set which features many seminal early Grime artists was filmed, which was rare for the era, and has accumulated over a million views on YouTube and resulted in the two exchanging diss tracks. Since his incarceration on murder charges in 2005 Crazy Titch has said he no longer has any issues with Dizzee Rascal who has not since commented on the affair. There has been some suggestion, however, that the chorus of Dizzee Rascal's hit song Bonkers references Crazy Titch's incarceration.
After winning a Sidewinder Award for Best Newcomer MC in 2002, in June 2003 the re-recorded and re-produced by Jacob Freitt single eels up inside ya was released, becoming a Top 30 hit single.
Dizzee was a judge in the Sky1 show Must Be The Music.