“East London to me just sounded honest. It was garage, jungle, and then grime, and pirate radio blaring through windows on my estate.” Dizzee Rascal, one of the UK’s most important MCs, is talking through his seventh studio album as if it’s a time capsule. Titled E3 AF—a nod, he says, to his identity as a West African East Londoner—it is an homage to London, and the Lincoln Estate he grew up in. On it, he returns to the production thrill of the first beats he made on his 2003 debut Boy In Da Corner, only this time it’s his own home studio, built as a reaction to COVID-19. Now, he invites the best in the industry—Kano, Ghetts, Chip, Frisco, and others—to join him as if nothing had changed from the days squeezed together in the small spaces of underground radio stations across London. The result is a frenetically paced, humor-packed offering now characteristic of Dizzee, with grime, jungle, and garage running through it as its life force. “I was like, ‘OK, I'm just going to make a grime album, make beats and bring your favorite MCs together,” he says. “It’s about where I am now, but looking back on where I came from with respect.” Here, Dizzee talks us through the album, track by track. God Knows (feat. P Money) “There’s a reason that it's an album opener. It's a declaration, coming in dirty and hard. I made the beat myself, then thought about what type of person I would want on my beat who I knew could deliver, and P Money is reliable like that. When the pandemic hit, I had to learn to record myself, because I never had a home setup before. I never knew how to do any of that stuff by myself with other engineers. I'm cutting a few uncomfortable truths on this. It's a powerful way to start. A bit frantic, very hard. P Money just comes in with the straight kick in the face.” That's Too Much (feat. Frisco and D Double E) “Some of these tunes are like old-school Dizzee, which only some people know now, I suppose. Like recently someone saw me and was like, ‘Ah, it's the geezer from the Ladbrokes advert!’ I had to laugh, because it basically just means that I’ve really been making music for a really long time. I'm happy with how I went in. You can hear the effort. I'm happy that we all sound good together.” L.L.L.L. (Love Life Live Large) (feat. Chip) “The title comes from the chorus. I was just vibing with that. A lot of the artists I like, like JAY-Z or Young Jeezy, have been ones that are getting you going and motivational. I've always been about that, too. Getting Chip on it was another moment. I think I just hit him up on DM on Instagram, which is how I contacted most of the people on this album. I got really into using it after Snoop Dogg introduced it to me in LA a few years ago. I like the half rhymes in it. They're not words you hear a lot in rap songs as well. I think they’re the ones that set you apart. Like, we all know that hip-hop came from America and from Jamaica as well, but those cockney words that came from here, I like them. I grew up around all that, so it's nice to be able to stick them in there.” Body Loose “I worked with Splurgeboys on ‘Still Sittin' Here’ so I knew them already. This era takes me back MCing in youth clubs in Bow and Newham and South London. It takes me back to pirate radio. I was around Nasty Crew or a young Kano on Flava FM. When ‘Body Groove’ came out around 2000, I was either in my last year at school or going into college. That shit was big on the TV. It was big on pirate radio. So it was them times. Garage was the sound of London.” You Don't Know “This is more observation than a criticism. It’s just saying that's where we are. I've always got those social commentary tunes, where I'm just kind of like just summing up the vibe of today, like I did on ‘Dirtee Cash’ as well. It’s just about how the world's kind of working now, how much social media means to people. I like to keep it minimal, like I say on the song.” Energies + Powers (feat. Alicaì Harley and Steel Banglez) “I like that this is a bit of a reflective moment. A good album has to have a bit of light and dark—have a minute to feel something. Most of it was recorded in Miloco [recording studios], in South London, and I was having a little break in the kitchen with Tinie Tempah's manager. Alicaì came in and she was just bold and kind of just started rapping and singing like on the spot. I was like, ‘Wow, how come I never heard this girl? Her music is sick.’ So I went next door, called her in, was like, ‘Yo, what do you think of this?’ She came and just laid it down, man. Steel Banglez did the beat. He was perfect, because anyone else on that beat might have made it a club tune.” Eastside (feat. Ghetts and Kano) “The title comes from Ghetts saying ‘Live and direct from the East Side,’ which stuck. We're not from the same direct area, but it's next door, so we rolled around with the same people growing up. Back in the day we used to call Ghetts ‘Reggie.’ So that's what I'm talking about when I talk about ‘me and Reggie’ in this. Especially because those times, when we were younger, Ghetts was not an MC. He caught up, though. It’s always sick to be with the best in the game who are given 32 bars to fully express what they want. It's almost, in a way, harder because we already decided there was no chorus. I was like, ‘Fuck it. Just roll off the back of it.’” Act Like You Know (feat. Smoke Boys) “The vibe of that tune was kind of just cold when I was approaching it. It's not the most loud, aggressive tune—it's almost a bit murky and sinister. It's me just banging my chest, really. I know some of the stuff sometimes sounds like I'm saying really simple, easy stuff like ‘papaya’ and whatever, but I’m always thinking of the pattern and flow of what I'm saying, thinking about metaphors and words. I don’t cut corners where it comes to vocal delivery. It’s fun to rhyme simple words like ‘trolley’ and ‘dolly.’ Sometimes you might know a word but you don't necessarily know the context.” Don’t Be Dumb (feat. Ocean Wisdom) “I had to keep up with Ocean Wisdom, because he's technically one of the fastest rappers in the world, I think he held the record for that. To be fair, though, I started off as a jungle MC, so I learnt at that tempo. I've slowed down over the years, through grime or whatever. You have to think about the diction. It's like, ‘OK, how long can I go without running out of breath?’ So I kind of rap to the point where I get out of breath, then I'll stop for a second, and then I might punch in and carry on. It's usually at the last three takes that sound the best. It’s an art, man.” Be Incredible (feat. Rob Jones TV) “The chorus almost sounds a bit like John Legend. The beat started off because I was looking for Japanese music, like Japanese massage music on YouTube, and I sampled it and quite liked it. It’s almost a bit ballad-y. I love having them ones which are an emotional wind-down. I came up listening to 2Pac and Nas and shit like that who do the same. It’s them tunes that get people through stuff. The amount of times people come up to me and say, ‘Your music got me through prison or a hard time,’ or whatever. It's them emotional moments. I like ending like that.”

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