This album has quite a lot to live up to. High Focus records were responsible for 2 of the best albums of last year, the most recent of which being the excellent debut set from Dike’s partner in rhyme, Jam Baxter. Would this run of form extend to the Cambridge man’s second solo LP?
The press release states that Dirty Dike is the nastiest rapper in the world. That’s quite a claim, there are quite a few pretty fucked up MCs out there… On occasions, it even seems like proving this statement true is the primary objective. Average Wank Fam is a case in point. The concept behind the lyrics seems to be: think of entirely random, messed up stuff (“shag your rancid Nan with a shandy can”). All a little bit year 7, and not really the recipe for a strong track that you’re going to bump on the regular.
The chorus of Act Like A Freak is another attempt to make sure that we are all fully aware of his don’t give a fuck attitude:
“If you have an opinion,
I’m glad that you see
Just how deep down I couldn’t give a fuck
Cos I’m me”
I guess that’s just as well, really… The formula works rather better on a track like Hi I’m James, as Dike comes across somewhat more tongue in cheek, and less forced.
There is a well stocked guest list onboard. The ever consistent Skuff shows up on the autobiographical The Agitated:
“When I was born, I never did cry, I think I might have yawned,
Bright eyes, shining wide at all the sights before,
By the time they cut the cord, I was a handful,
And as soon as I could walk I was a vandal.
I hit the ground running, and by the time I was 8 or 9,
I’d spend my playtime stepping through my state of mind.
I was a strange brainy child, but a thoughtless kid,
Me and my mates were naughty shits, and teachers thought us thick.
The first time a mic was held, I was age 12,
I swear to God I raised hell, plus the angels fell.
I slay brain cells with weed, and my teenage life,
Was our curriculum, trying to slay our creative drive.
But I refuse to lose.
Cartoons, ill tunes and garms is all I wanted,
So that’s all I did, and still do.”
This track also sees one of the best beats on the album, as Mr Constant, who produced the whole thing, meshes some horns with a plodding baseline, to great effect. In fact, the production is very solid throughout, with Constant serving up mid-tempo, sample-based boom bap of good quality. The mixing is also of high quality, as all tracks sound smooth when dropping from the speakers or headphones, sadly not always a given with UK releases. The flute, and bass guitar of Morph Into Any Shape stand out as another highlight musically.
Other guests include a Contact Play reunion on What D’You Expect, where Baxter steals the show, and the immense posse cut, From The Future, that features no less than 8 guest verses. To their credit, the MCs manage to keep the track entertaining despite it being over 7 minutes long… This is part of a strong finish to the album, as the preceding track, the dark Never Seen A Reason is probably Dike’s strongest, lyrical performance.
Overall, this album ends up being quite hit and miss. Clearly Dike is a capable rhymer, but would be better off avoiding slipping into self-parody, whilst attempting to prove he is “the world’s filthiest rapper”. Perhaps that character appeals to some, I don’t know… The production stands out as the complete opposite of the vocals, solid throughout, occasionally managing to keep otherwise lackluster tracks interesting.