Where’s My Brother?

Words: Son Raw

It's as predictable as the change of seasons: every few years, Wiley and Dizzee Rascal's long-running cold war heats up again, resulting in another flurry of words and accusations from each side. This time, the volleys were particularly nasty, complete with death threats by Dizzee, and Wiley taking to Instagram to drop some sharp bars in return. Thankfully, by Sunday the anger had dissipated and we were all left reminiscing on better times, when grime's yin and yang were in sync and dropping some of the best music of their careers instead of trolling each other on social media. With that in mind, here's Wiley and Dizzee's best musical moments—a selection of sets and tracks that captured their ineffable chemistry.


Sidewinder Shutdowns

There's so much to unpack here visually, from Dizzee's wetlook hoodie (ahead of its time) to Slimzee's Burberry cap (very much 2002), and that's just on stage—look into the crowd and you'll get as good a summary as any of early grime's raw, street level energy. The crowd is practically ready to burst and when Wiley jumps on mic—it's instant reload time, and not only because he got tackled by the host a few bars in. Above all else however, the most shocking thing here, in hindsight, is visual proof that Wiley and Dizzee were ever even in the same room together; coming 15 years off their beef, this visual document of two future icons literally inventing grime as they go along is the holy grail. The full Sidewinder set with God's Gift, Viper, Lethal B and Dogzilla is scripture as well.

Feeling spoiled? Too #2017 to listen to old radio rips or rave tapes? DJ Slimzee's vintage promo mixes are by far the best way to hear the transition from garage to grime in full CD quality. Boy In Da Corner and Treddin' On Thin Ice may be grime classics, but they were also aiming to break both emcees to a larger audience and were carefully crafted statements. In contrast, this promo mix for the Sidewinder rave series catches Dizzee and Wiley preaching to the faithful, exchanging bars at 140BPM over a selection of future classics in the studio, while retaining all the energy of a live rave.

“2 Far”

If you've heard one Dizzee and Wiley collaboration, it's this one. But let's take a second to look outside of its context as a Boy In Da Corner deep cut. The duo's usual format was Dizzee spitting over Wiley's frosty Eski-beat productions, but for his debut album, Raskit took Wiley outside of his UKG comfort zone, speeding things up to a high velocity 160BPM and adopting a flow halfway between American bounce and junglist chatter. Lyrically, Diz called out the Queen, earning many plaudits from a music press eager for an authentic view from the streets, but perhaps the most puzzling moment is Wiley comparing himself to a Ninja Turtle. That and the sped-up fitness instructor ad-libs.

Bringing The Heat To DJ Wonder’s Rinse FM Show

There's a dozen or so Rinse FM sets featuring these two emcees, which are easily accessible on YouTube (and quite a few more in darker corners of the web) but this one with DJ Wonder stands out both for the relatively high quality audio, and because none of the three would be on speaking terms within a few years. Before Wonder invented half-step with his classic production on "What", and before Wiley would take the piss out of him with the copycat "Morgue", they were all under the Roll Deep umbrella—but this predates even that seminal crew, mixing proto-garage to late era 2-step.

That “Ice Rink” Vocal

This one's cheating since practically every other East London emcee of note spits on "Ice Rink" by the time Wiley officially released the riddim in 2003, but it hints at the kind of classic grime could have gained from these two had ego and untamed ambition not stepped in the way. Dizzee would stop producing beats within a few years of finding success as an emcee, while Wiley expanded his palette beyond his original Eski sound. But imagine if the two had linked up for a full record of Raskit's angular bars over this sort of square-wave madness? The mind reels at the possibility.

Roll Deep x Ministry Of Sound x La Cosa Nostra

Another live rave recording straight from the soundboard—this one features the extended Roll Deep family, and serves as a reminder of how much stronger Dizzee can be when he's not keeping the grime community at arm's length or insisting he's a hip-hop artist. The chemistry he's got with his crew, particularly Wiley, is palpable here and he just rips this classic selection to shreds. Also, can you imagine this one going down at Ministry, of all places? We're a long way from your average Pete Tong set.

“Letter To Dizzee” / “Pussyole”

Not so much a collaboration as the confirmation of the end: if Wiley's heartfelt confessional wasn't enough to get Dizzee to reach out and bury the hatchet, nothing in the next 10 years was ever going to do it. Sadly, instead of a renewed friendship, Dizzee responded with the blistering "Pussyole", making it clear that there was no love lost here and that he had no intention of mending fences. Ever since, the pattern's been pretty much in place: Wiley putting out feelers for a reunion and Dizzee responding by saying he has absolutely no interest. It's a dance that mirrors their role in grime: Wiley as the communal statements trying to elevate the scene, and Dizzee as the standout star seeking to escape it. And while we may never get that reunion, I'd wager we've not heard the last of these two going at it in public.

Posted on October 04, 2017