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Dizzee Rascal Brings "Maths + English" to NYC With El-P, Busdriver

May 12, 2008 3:40 PM ET

"People sayin', 'Oh, I can't understand his accent, I can't tell what he's sayin'. You don't need to know what the fuck I'm sayin'," barked Dizzee Rascal Saturday night in New York. It's true — with Dizzee Rascal, it really doesn't matter. The London MC held forth at Webster Hall, three shows into his first U.S. tour behind Maths + English, his nearly year-old album that only saw a Stateside release last month. Dizzee opened his hour-long set with "I Luv U" from 2003's Boy in Da Corner, and stuck to that album ("Jus' a Rascal," "Stop Dat") and Maths ("Where's Da G's," "Flex"), nearly ignoring 2004's Showtime except for a sprint through "Stand Up Tall." It's still hard to gauge if Dizzee has truly broken through in America after three albums, but if the full house was any indication — and the crowd's willingness to open up a breakdance circle during "Old Skool" — his contingent of fans is dedicated to keep him trying.

Hometown hero El-P served as a de facto co-headliner, and a cameo appearance from protégé Aesop Rock on two tracks, including a raging "Run the Numbers," pushed the energy over the top. El-P (a.k.a. Jamie Meline) spent most of the set teetering off the edge of the stage, and used his standard mid-set rant to wonder aloud if America is becoming a police state and questioning the value of voting. His set also featured the night's only theramin solo.

As powerful as Dizzee and El-P's sets were, the show was damn near stolen by support act Busdriver (Regan Farquhar), whose dual-mic wielding (one dry, one Chipmunks and other effects) and multi-voice approach brought to mind a hip-hop Mike Patton. He tossed out 78-rpm rhymes over samples like Radiohead's "Idioteque" and showed off a terrifically twisted talent that made the majority of hip-hop seem downright monochromatic by comparison.

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Song Stories

“I Was Made to Love Her”

Stevie Wonder | 1967

Stevie Wonder discovered true love while still a teenager, writing this ode to young love when he was only 17. The song, Wonder explained, "kind of speaks of my first love, to a girl named Angie, who was a very beautiful woman. She's married now. Actually, she was my third girlfriend but my first love. I used to call Angie up and we would talk and say, 'I love you, I love you,' and we'd talk and we'd both go to sleep on the phone.” The Beach Boys, Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston and Boyz II Men have all recorded versions of "I Was Made to Love Her."

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