It's been a startlingly fruitful decade for underground urban music, with UK garage ready to claim British cultural dominance at the turn of the century – a strain of fortified R'n'B that, despite having future laughing stock Craig David as a figurehead, and having limited itself from its eclectic origins in Larry Levan's Paradise Garage years earlier, still maintained its sleek edge. While it had its own seminal cuts that still stand the test of time – Wookie's slinky Hot Chip-approved Scrappy, Lisa Maffia's ukulele-tinged Brit-crunk banger All Over, and of course 21 Seconds – the overall impression of two-step now is of a tame catalyst for what was to come. Contemporary history is already telling us that 'garridge' morphed into a bassier, brasher, more intimidating sound with some haste, and while a track like More Fire Crew's incendiary Oi! or Wiley’s Eskimo can perhaps claim to be the first instance of grime reaching the overground, it was a boy from Bow who would kick the trap door off its hinges.
Hearing I Luv U for the first time was, I'd wager, perhaps the only instance this decade that could readily be likened to hearing, say, Afrika Bambaataa or Sex Pistols for the first time, the pop-cultural equivalent of an atomic bomb going off; you got the sense, within the first few bars of woofer-threatening bass stabs, firecracker-like beats and Dizzee’s hectic, accusatory flow that things would never, ever be quite the same. While it displayed evidence to why grime got its name, forsaking the sheen of two-step with aplomb, I Luv U also narrated a frank and often despicable glimpse into the minds of the a promiscuous, nihilistic Brit ‘yoof’: “I like your girl so you better look after your girl, or I might take your girl and make your girl my girl” etc. Yet somehow it became liberating, especially since both male (played by Dizzee) and female (“That boy’s some prick y’kna”) got their side of the argument in this three-minute explicit soap opera, escalating to the point of no return. A fictional tale perilously close the bone – convincing enough to prompt an open-letter remix response from another rising grime star Shystie – I Luv U alone painted Mr Rascal as the sharp, thrilling poet laureate of broken Britain. The startled lad handed the Mercury gong has now transformed into the darling of party-minded UK electro-house instead, but for making a startling first impression Dylan Mills can at least claim with sincerity that he gave the ringtone generation an opening gambit of considerable dexterity and substance.
[Album: Boy In Da Corner]