Dizzee Rascal was one of the U.K.’s most prominent music subjects during the latter half of 2003. Just a few months prior to winning his country’s Mercury Prize — for Boy in da Corner, his debut album — his name was known only by his peers and devout followers of the garage scene. Though the innovative MC/producer was only 18 at the time of the album’s release, there was plenty to talk about beyond his music.
He picked up the 2003 Mercury Prize a couple months later, guested on Basement Jaxx’s Kish Kash, and saw his album receive a U.S. release in January of 2004. He became more of an underground sensation stateside; Anglophiles with equal love for dance music and hip-hop tended to embrace him, while others found themselves baffled by all of the hype. In September of 2004, Dizzee released Showtime worldwide, followed by Maths and English in 2007. Between the release of the two albums, Dizzee set up a fledgling label for younger talent called Dirtee Stank. In 2009, he returned with Tongue n’ Cheek, which featured the U.K. number one singles “Bonkers” (with Armand Van Helden), “Dance wiv Me,” “Holiday,” and “Dirtee Disco.” In 2010, Dizzee Rascal won the Brit Award for Best British Male Artist, while a collaboration with Shakira for the single “Loca” saw the rapper enter the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for the first time. Jessie Ware, Robbie Williams, will.i.am, and others landed on 2013’s The Fifth, a more pop-infused album that featured the single “Superman.