How the gleaming towers of Canary Wharf inspired a young Dizzee Rascal

By Beth Allcock on September 6, 2013 8:30 AM |


A decade of grime music that first found its voice in the heart of east London may seem like the antithesis of the gleaming skyscrapers of corporate Canary Wharf.

But freelance writer Dan Hancox, a man with a self-confessed "fanboy-ish love" of the music genre, says the two have a closer relationship than might first appear.

Hancox was introduced to the grime scene during his south London school days sharing classrooms with members of So Solid Crew.

From there, he became immersed in the lyrical tracks of Dizzee Rascal and his fellow MCs, generated in pirate studios and on top of tower blocks east of the capital.

Penning articles about the underground music scene, he said his "one true passion" provided a link between music and politics - and the backbone for his new e-book, Stand Up Tall Dizzee Rascal And The Birth of Grime.

The 32-year-old said: "Grime is political in its expression of anger, claustrophobia as well as fun, excitement and youthful rebellion without needing to call out David Cameron's name or claiming an attack on government.

"This music has real impact. It's a product of its environment."

He said the Canary Wharf estate represented economic growth and individualism.

Rascal and co grew up in another form of tower block, shunted from school to school after expulsions. He saw the clean lines of One Canada Square, so close but so far away, as a symbol of aspiration and solo success.

Dizzee created what Dan brands "two creative masterpieces" - Boy In Da Corner and Showtime - at 16, on the computers at Langdon Park School. The rhetoric of grime music refers to progress "pushing things forward", asking what's next and who will get there first.

Grime is about year zero and grabbing the future whereas American hip-hop refers to being "real" and respecting history.


"We had Dizzee and Tinchy Stryder (right) growing up near Canary Wharf, they grew up in poverty looking at this other tower block one or two miles away," he said.

"It is there where the futurism of the sound and the sonics of grime can be found - it sounds shiny with zip zap effects.

"You look at the buildings in Canary Wharf in contrast to the dirt of the Crossways Estate (where Dizzee grew up) and a lot of council estates, and which of these look like grime?

"It's actually the futuristic steel and glass constructions of Canary Wharf.

"As Dizzee said in an interview, as a teenager he would look at the bright light on One Canada Square and imagine there were aliens up there.

"And DJ Target described it as 'our Statue of Liberty'.


"It does, for better or worse, accurately describe a product of the economy and the style we live in, of aspiration and exclusivity.

"I love coming here and seeing these buildings but I am also oddly disturbed. It's all very well saying the buildings of Canary Wharf inspire people out of poverty but the facts don't support that."

The author's 15,000-word document, which took a month to write, was commissioned for Amazon.

Dan, pictured left, said the online book offered him a chance to "indulge" his writing ambitions about music, politics and the architectural history of east London.

It also signifies a marker in the grime timeline.

"I have long been writing about grime and trying to persuade people like The Guardian it was worth writing about," he said.

"About a year ago I realised it was getting dangerously close to being a decade since Dizzee's Boy In Da Corner came out.

"Grime had experienced a fresh flush of youth and it seemed like the right time to do it."

Buy the e-book book, priced at £1.99, on