“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.