It's not often a track with the word 'love' (or 'luv') in the title smacks you in the face harder than a hammer to a fairground high striker. Then again, a 17-year-old school dropout from Bow, E3 winning the Mercury Prize isn't a frequent occurrence, either. As was the case with Dizzee Rascal and 'Boy In Da Corner', his vexed up debut album containing alt-romance riot 'I Luv U'. A tune way more derogatory than doting. One that tells grim tales of teenage pregnancy rather than tight-knight relationships. One that aggressively spouts off about underage sex instead of undying adoration. Also one that scooped grime up from the bowels of East London and into the charts, introducing an unexpecting public to an inner-city genre fueled with grit and frustration.
This was June 1, 2003 (it was released a week earlier), a time when R. Kelly's ridiculously catchy 'Ignition Remix' was topping the charts, short-lived duo Tatu were adamant whoever it was they were referring to were 'Not Gunna Get Us' and Junior Senior's 'Move Your Feet' was the soundtrack for young kids high on Skittles at school discos UK-wide. In comes Dizzee, bringing with him a chaotic, turbo-charged blend of revved-up bass kicks, scything swipes, eerie synth whirls and the odd engine rumble. Let's not forget the infectious 'I love you...you...you...you' vocal, the mischievous Shystie slurs and Dizzee's rapid, unforgiving flow, so relentless I still haven't grasped it 14 years later.
Dizzee's arrival was a welcome relief for UK music. Garage had guzzled its champagne, its post-Millennium time in the limelight over after number ones from DJ Pied Piper and the Master of Ceremonies and So Solid Crew. When 'I Luv U' entered the charts, its only other 'urban' UK companions were Lisa Maffia ('All Over') and Shy FX & T Power ('Feelin' U'). Sorry, Big Brovaz, but you don't count.