Dizzee Rascal’s first album, Boy In Da Corner, is considered seminal amongst grime music aficionados. A recent show at the Roundhouse saw, amongst other things, poet Debris Stevenson attempt to alchemise it into a series of spoken word pieces. She commanded the room with charisma and lyrical skill. But was it wise of her to mess with a classic?
Stevenson acted as compere for Dirtee Verse too, displaying a healthy dose of self deprecation. She was even the mastermind behind bringing all the performers in the room together for a unique artistic experience.
The most electric part of the night was when spoken word poets went toe to toe with grime MCs. One rapper came out with the devastating one liner “you look like DMX fell face first off his BMX”, which prompted the audience to erupt in excitement. A Nottingham based bard so thoroughly annihilated her opponent, that when the crowd were asked to make some noise on his behalf, there was deadly silence.
One poet performed an ingenious piece about the essence of grime music. He said that grime is pirate radio sets in the kitchens of high rise flats, and getting expelled from school without any GCSEs. All the poems were deep and evocative. They oozed insight and sentiment, despite taking their cue from a music scene which is typically materialistic and shallow.
A DJ played banging tunes during the intervals. The atmosphere was fun and inclusive, as opposed to the moody, even threatening vibe you might expect from a more underground grime night.
Debris Stevenson pulled off the trick of reimagining Boy In Da Corner well. Hers were raw and intense interpretations, which put a new spin on the record, while retaining its gritty power.
Dirtee Verse as a whole, wasn’t so much a clash of cultures, as a celebration of ‘urban’ life and creativity through the meeting of brilliant minds. It was a shame no one was brave enough to step up to the open mic at the end. I would have done so myself, but thought better of putting a hundred people through that.
Dirtee Verse was part of The Last Word festival, which concludes with With A Little Bit Of Luck