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Culture: Andrew Cowen's Big world of Rock - And they call it yuppie love.

Byline: Andrew Cowen

I suppose that, at the end of the day, the best man won. I'm talking about Dizzee Rascal's hoisting of the Mercury Music Prize. His album, Boy in Da Corner, was probably the most innovative album on the list, equalled only by Birmingham's Soweto Kinch. But, as the token jazzer, Kinch probably never had much of a look-in.

Mr Rascal's debut is certainly the one that will put the willies up the casual buyer who bought, on spec, CDs by previous winners such as M People, Ms Dynamite Tee Hee, Portishead, Pulp or Talvin Singh. Boy in da Corner ain't no coffee table album.

Its phantasmagorical soundscapes sound like no other hip hop you've heard before. Big dirty bass drums, wonky gamelan and odd operatics back Dizzee's cinema verite for the ears.

The subject matter is hardcore too: council estate life, drugs, teen pregnancies and guns prop up each of the 15 cuts. Like all great debuts, it sounds like an album that the artist had to make. As was the case with the Streets -who were surely robbed last year -it's proper British music and, as such, the deserving winner.

But to assume that it's the best British album released last year is an error. The judges have mistaken street cred for worthiness. Obviously reeling from the Streets fiasco, the judges employed the formula: teenage dude + streetwise lyrics + dirty beats + swearing = winner. Which tends to work most of the time.

However, I can't help wishing that there was a career path for middle class, educated, loaded white guys. A sort of Yuppies With Attitude type of thing.

The days of Thatcher's me, me, me generation are now long gone and it seems as if the only members of young society with any aspiration are the ragamuffins. These are the guys who listen to Snoop Daddy Cents, dream of owning a Beamer and talk in clipped doggerel jive.

Instilled with a peculiar non-work work ethic, these street-level poets and DJs know that it's not so much what you say, but the way that you say it that is the key to success. Proper music (ie best-selling albums) was always the domain of the white middle classes, the public school virtuosos and sensitive lyricists. The rude arrival of rap, garage and R&B saw the secondary modernists gatecrashing the grammar school party. The fact that Coldplay and Radiohead were shunned again by the Mercury judges must strike a note of fear into all educated musicians.

As a son of professional parents who holidayed in France as a kid, never had free school lunches and always was bought the latest Yes album, I'll tell you what I want to hear.

Give me MC Studely-Copthorne on the mic rapping about the ills of society: the right to hunt foxes, the minging state of debs these days, the scandalous price of the new Mini Cooper, the precarious state of the economy and how Jerusalem artichokes give you gas. Dress him in Rohan trousers, Pringle sweaters and deck plimsolls and have his photo taken in the grounds of Hampton Court. And then let's see how the Mercury Prize judges react.

Are there any experts in dream therapy out there?

I woke up in a sweat in the middle of the night, perceiving a Bronte-esque tapping on the window. In my dream the late Rod Hull was trying to get in.

I could see him through the glass mouthing words that were just out of earshot. Opening the window I asked him: 'what's up mate?', to which he replied 'what was the final score?'. One-all I replied and he left me to sleep.

1992 -Primal Scream: Screamadelica

1993 -Suede: Suede

1994 -M People: Elegant Slumming

1995 -Portishead: Dummy

1996 -Pulp: Different Class

1997 -Roni Size: New Forms

1998 -Gomez: Bring It On

1999 -Talvin Singh: OK

2000 -Badly Drawn Boy: The Hour Of Bewilderbeast

2001 -PJ Harvey: Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea

2002 -Ms Dynamite: A Little Deeper

Previous Mercury prize-winners


Dizzee Rascal, this year's Mercury Music Prize winner
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 11, 2003
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