Shystie - Diamond In The Dirt
Shystie - 21-year-old Chanelle Scott, who picked up her name, meaning sweet but cheeky, at school - was born in Hackney, North London and if you're already expecting one kind of sound, a mix of Dizzee Rascal, Eminem, Lisa Maffia and Jamelia, then this will be a surprise. Of course, there's the rapid delivery - Shystie says of her style, "I rhyme fast and people know it?s me. It?s my speed and my triple-rhymin?" - and the jittery beats that you'd associate with UK garage but alongside both of those, there's the sound of a Middle-Eastern influence to the music, which gives Diamond In The Dirt the feel of a tense, uncomfortable urban classic.
Much of the reason why this album works and so many others don't is just the sense of style that it plays on. Unlike, say, the Taz album, which will be reviewed here shortly, and which is a mean-spirited album, Shystie's album has all the fun of The Streets' two records to date and welcomes the listener into her debut album with jokes, sound effects, stories and cracks about her life. Of course, there's still the brash attitude that you'd expect from Shystie - less sweetness and more, 'you don't know me...don't tell me what to do' - but between her upfront strut, there are moments in which she opens up and reveals someone who, through her music, is just looking for a better life.
On songs like One Wish, Step Bac or Woman's World, this mix of the tough Hackney girl and the 21-year-old woman makes for an aggressive set of lyrics but with occasional moments of vulnerability but come the highlight of the album, Questions, in which Shystie role plays as a guest on a frothy chat show on which the host comes on to her, she opens up a run of four songs that make this an equal to the best of The Streets. Why Questions is such a good song is that it's unafraid to take risks - were others would have played it safe, Questions uses a light, chat-show-theme backing, an audience who are played for laughs and a chorus that's almost music hall, leaving it as a classic almost from its opening seconds through to her challenge of the assumption that she 'needed to sell crack to put clothes on her back'. Following that, there's the sweet romance of Make It Easy, the rough Unfinished Business and the story of Bank Robbery, in which she's armed for a robbery that almost goes wrong.
As you'd expect from someone who writes on a mobile phone and admits that, "...my tunes have something naughty or rude or in-your-face. I don't want no album of sleeping tunes!", Diamond In The Dirt is upfront but without ever setting itself against the listener or excluding them from the sound. Instead, it's an album that sees Shystie looking to share her experiences and with her star quickly rising, she could and should be receiving similar praise to Mike Skinner and his stories of night buses, chippies and cans of lager.