“He’s just an arsehole/He’s just an arsehole/He’s Dizzee Rascal/He’s just an arsehole.” The original Taz-produced bassline of Dizzee Rascal’s anthem “Jus’ A Rascal” thunders over Britain’s airwaves with a raucous new vocal from 20-year-old East London MC Crazy Titch. Tim Westwood, the legendary BBC Radio One hip-hop DJ, is giving Crazy Titch’s Dizzee Rascal-dissing dubplate a third reload. “Dizzee man, maybe you should ‘low it with this guy,” says Westwood. “He sounds scary.”
For those who don’t know about his wicked sense of humor and shrewd character development, Crazy Titch would seem pretty fucking scary. Titch became notorious amongst underground UK garage heads in winter 2003, when a clash with Dizzee Rascal on pirate station De Ja Vu–in a studio packed with brand-name MCs including Titch’s half-brother Durrty Doogz (now called Goodz)–ended in a scruffy brawl. A member of Roll Deep (Wiley and Dizzee’s original crew) filmed the escapade and released a DVD called Conflict, which brought Crazy instant hype “on road.”
Crazy followed up the street buzz with a classic interview about the incident on the documentary, Lord Of The Decks, the first professionally presented mixtape and DVD package to come out of East London’s garage scene. From a bleak highrise stairwell, he vented about what happened after the fracas at De Ja Vu, his fierce monologue accompanied with wild gesticulation and contorted facial expressions. “I had loads of stuff to get off my head,” says Titch. “I’d just come back from [Ayia] Napa, [the summer haven for UK garage heads]. I’d lost about three stone. I was not a happy boy at all.”
Coinciding with this, Channel U, the UK’s underground cable music channel, began showing his ‘I Can CU’ video. Shot round the estates of Titch’s hood, he gets up in viewers’ faces whilst a pack of hyped young men do East London’s souped-up version of skanking, a dance style that, to outsiders, looks like unruly mob fighting.
Sitting in his family home in Plaistow in South East London, Titch shows me a collection of pictures of his baby nephew then starts explaining the Dizzee beef. “Everyone was writing sly bars about each other,” he begins. “I don’t care about sly bars. I just say your name. Let’s get the clash on.” Clashing is a way for UK MCs to get recognition on the streets; they take place between individual MCs or entire crews live on pirate stations, on mixtape DVDs, and occasionally at raves. The winner is not often clear–kids in the scene will debate “who slew who” for months after the battle.
Fidgeting manically on the sofa, Titch continues. “It kicked off with Dizzee ‘cos he touched my arm. I was fresh from the bing (Young Offenders Centre). There’s not much personal things in the bing, so you have to respect your personal space. He invaded mine. I flipped on him. But I don’t care about all that now. It’s just air.”
If it’s just air, why release “Arsehole?” “That was last year,” says Crazy. “I’m all about making tracks now. Dizzee dissed me on Westwood. I can’t have that so I wrote the bars and laid it down. I didn’t know how I was gonna get my tune played so I was like, ‘Well, I know where Radio One is, I’ll just go there.” Westwood didn’t play it the week I left it but then the following weekend he started rinsing it. I went down the studio a few weeks after that.”
Appearing on the UK’s biggest legal popular music station was a massive achievement for Titch, but airtime didn’t always come so easy. “I used to ring Rinse FM and be like ‘Yeah man, I wanna spit some lyrics’ and they’d be like, ‘You’re good but, er, too violent for radio.’”
As he remembers his 1998 lyrics, he’s concerned he might have also offended some ladies. “Alright as long as your cool,” he warns, before delivering me a sample. “Suck my dick/Gnaw on my cum/Shit, shit with a bang you’d better run/Suck on my balls/choke on my pubic hair, ‘cos you know I don’t care. I’ll run your house and take the hi-fi and the TV/See me. No one was spitting like me in them times.”
Laughing at the memory, it’s clear Titch always knew what he was doing when he spat flow this hardcore. “It was a joke, a style. None of it was serious. I was young and gone. I knew what would make people laugh. I talk about real life situations now. I’m off the violence. Just don’t push me,” he says with a maniacal grin.
As UK garage thrives, the number of wannabe MC is exploding. Stages at raves are crammed with up to 20 people grappling for the mic. Few impress Titch, though. “They lack character,” he grouses. “You have to be a product people wanna buy into. You have to have unique ways. You don’t just grab the mic, put up your hood, and spit. You’re meant to be an entertainer. Jesus.”
Despite his pending leap from local hero to professional artist, Titch is adamant he’ll still be a face on the scene. “I’m like a top boy in my [postcode]. You should never be gone. If you leave the hood totally, you’re gonna have problems coming back.”
Yanking at his Evisu jeans, he concludes, “If you look at anyone from England that’s made a name for themselves, they came through garage: Lady Dynamite, Craig David, Daniel Bedingfield. But they used our sounds and cut out. That’s rude. I can’t ever turn ‘round and say I’m not garage. Never.”