UK Hip Hop

Album Review: Dirty Dike – Acrylic Snail

Acrylic snail, Dirty Dike’s first full length offering since 2015’s ‘Sucking on Prawns in the Moonlight’, offers exactly what we’ve come to expect from the High Focus rapper, a brash, brazen barrage of lyrical debauchery seesawing between giddy, narcissistic highs and self-deprecating lows. Ever the enigmatic lyricist the one thing you can be certain that Dike will bring to the table is wordplay galore, his intricate delivery tying together the disparate elements that his battered brain produces. The subject matter here is typically outlandish, whether he’s tearing through a dystopian city or relaxing at home with a drink in one hand and a horse heart in the other, it’s rarely your typical Sunday afternoon.

The first song after the intro ‘Permanent Midnight’ marked a swaggering return to the music game for the Dikestar when he dropped it as a single after a three year absence. Along with the ever impressive Jam Baxter he sets the tone for the album, opening with the lyric “Sat in a car park doing lighter gas in year 8” – as we’ve come to expect from Dike, the next 45 minutes is something of a testament to the varied effects of this kind of behaviour on the mind. The rapper navigates a path through the dark depths of his brain, giving us a peek into some of the highlights, or oftentimes lowlights, like a menagerie of drug-induced weirdness – similar to one from season 3 of Rick and Morty except all the exhibits are wasted.

menagerie image

You get the sense that Dike lives a life of extremes, resulting in the sorts of highs that make for brilliant stories followed by the crushing lows that make it glad that you don’t have to do it yourself; the real magic comes as the rapper puts it to a beat and makes it sound fucking sick. Never has the idea “of watching telly in my socks until I pop an eccy” sounded so appealing, something about the boom bap production and underlying eerie chords elevate the bleak prospect to an exciting adventure. That’s the thing about this album, as well as much of Dike’s previous work, he delivers gruesome content with such effortless irreverence that it sounds like a whole lot of fun. The delivery is for the most part rambunctious and boastful, something of a prerequisite when you spit lines like “last Saturday, the Saturday before last/ I was caught wanking off and marinating horse hearts”. Ridiculous, yet sublime. Dike is one of those rare emcees who can carry off this outrageous persona, because you believe it one hundred percent.

However, whilst it’s an entertaining act it is at times also frustrating, as we strain to get a glimpse behind the mask. About halfway through the album though, that mask does appear to slightly crack. ‘Still the Same James’, is hardly the archetypal ‘I’m still the same great guy’ track – “I haven’t changed a bit/ still the same James, still a fucking prick” – but vulnerability does creep in on a track that is altogether more reserved than those that precede it. The beat is melodic, almost ambient, with far less drumkit and bass and much lighter and more gentle synths. Whilst it’s not a classicly vulnerable track, vulnerability does creep through, particularly in the lyric “Never get it wrong except for when I hesitate and let my brain/ space invade itself into unnecessary aches and pains”. However, eking out the person behind the persona can be exhausting, so when we hear ‘Syringe Ditch’ a couple of tracks later, it is wonderfully refreshing. On this one Dike completely abandons his swagger and bravado and rhymes frankly about the pain of a failed relationship. A rare moment of lucidity, the raw honesty of lyrics like “you didn’t love yourself enough that’s unattractive/ except the times you took the drugs and cried and done a backflip” is far more hard-hitting than the grotesque fantasies of Dike’s imagination (here’s hoping that the wanking off and marinating of horse hearts were unrelated activities).

The album ultimately contains everything that you’d expect from a Dirty Dike project, bombastic beats, bravado, boasts and an abundance of booze. Whilst it’s not necessarily the most profound album, one that you sit down and really listen to, it’s certainly a thoroughly enjoyable one, and that’s what music is all about. There are a few surprises along the way, not least the closing track ‘Rex 01’, a jungle cut featuring a collaboration with soundsystem legend Killa P among others. The great thing about it is that it fits in with the album about as well as a donkey at Ascot, but if there’s one thing we know about Dike… it’s that he doesn’t give a flying fuck, and it sounds great.

Rating 3.5/5

Standouts: Whoops, I Like My Nights Dark, Syringe Ditch, Dumb

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