Boy in da Corner

(XL Recordings)


Dizzee Rascal, aka 18-year-old "grhyme" garage MC Dylan Mills, landed the shortlist for Britain's Mercury Prize last week--presumably on the massive strength of his Positive K-style, war-of-the-sexes single, "I Luv U" (a bouncy, coy number whose popularity germinated on London pirate radio. Chingy aside, it's as close to a perfect, hot summer jam we'll get in America this year). The rest of Dizzee's debut record, Boy in da Corner, released in the UK last week, doesn't quite approach the preternaturally electric charm of "I Luv U." Even so, Dizzee's raps are charged and his production, tight--a layer of minimal drum tracks that seem to spring and coil into their own visceral melodies. Part of the Roll Deep Crew, Dizzee is a better and more substantial ambassador for UK garage than Mike Skinner (The Streets) ever was. His timbre possesses none of Skinner's isolated wistfulness; instead, he's propelled by the unfettered drive/corked frustration that can only motivate a dude this fresh and angry and eager to prove himself, but fronting otherwise. (Exception being the confessional "Do It": "It's almost like I got the world on my shoulders sometimes/No one to turn to/No one to talk to.") Dizzee's kinetic cadence and the spark of his consonant-y, East London twang are compelling enough, but his lyrics and life experience cut deep--often pinpointing, if not outright addressing, class inequity in urban England. On "2 Far," he wonders, "Queen 'lizabeth don't know me so/ How can she control me when I live street and she live neat?" (The realities of Dizzee's existential crisis hit harder recently after he was stabbed, allegedly for touching the ass of Lisa Maffia, from the rival So Solid Crew, according to the Guardian.) With its striking production and raw outlook, Boy in da Corner is the best rap record this year, and if/when it catches on in the States, it'll revolutionize on Missy/Timba proportions. JULIANNE SHEPHERD


Phantom Power

(XL Recordings)


It didn't quite work out as planned: global domination, it-list parading, actually selling some records. When those wandering Welsh souls the Super Furry Animals dropped 2002's Ring Around The World, things seemed unstoppable. But, alas, when you pulled back the curtain, the title was about making a call on your cell phone, the Paul McCartney cameo involved a stick of celery, and, worst of all, their songs were hard on the outside and soft in the middle. Wasn't this supposed to be a pop album? But it was: and if the just-released Phantom Power is any indication, the Furries' charm continues to be in work as embarrassing (when "Golden Retriever" imagines Brian Wilson as a member of BRMC) as it is worth embracing (when "Liberty Belle" imagines Brian Wilson as a member of the Super Furry Animals). So they're still smoking from the same stash. Mellow out, man: in Wales, a good dealer is hard to find. TREVOR KELLEY

**** Screwed, Glued & Tattooed

*** Up Shit Creek Without a Paddle

** Between a Rock and a Hard Place

* Flat Out Fucked