Grime artist Dizzee Rascal plays at Auckland's Splore Festival tonight. Karl Puschmann spoke to the London rapper about what fans can expect, working with pop stars and flying high at the beach...

You've played here a bunch over the years. It's great you're coming back.
For me, man, New Zealand's a permanent fixture in my life. I've been going there since 2003 when my first album came out and I've been going ever since. If I go back then I know my album – if I've put an album out – then it's done its job because I've been invited back. It's all good when I've been to New Zealand. I'm always happy to go back.

Anything you like to do while you're here. Got any plans?
To be fair I've been to New Zealand so many times. It's not that I've just gone in and out, I've seen all different beautiful sides of it. I've been to visit the Maori tribes, I've been in the mountains, I've been to all different parts. It's beautiful. I've seen enough.

This visit you're playing at Splore, it's such a great spot. Are you much of a beach guy?
Yeah. I've done festivals like that around the beach with the views.

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Oh, I meant do you go to the beach much just for fun?
Yeah man. Sometimes I go jet skiing or just chill with music on the beach. I do that, yeah.
You know what else I done? I tried out the water jet thing, you put it on your feet and it uses the water to propel you into the air. It was so heavy. They don't tell you how heavy they are. It's like having concrete put on your foot or something. It's hard to manoeuvre, but it's fun. You do actually feel like you're flying. It's hilarious. It's worth doing. It's funny, man.

Your latest album Raskit was a return to the raw grime sound of your early records...
It was, yeah. Definitely a move away from that big, crowd-pleasing dance music. Just strip it back, just rap again. Because that's primarily, how I came into the game.

How has this affected your live show?
Oh, it bangs. I've been on tour in the UK so I know the stuff works. There's a few bangers on that album. They go down live really well. Obviously we'll be doing… we've got 15 years of songs. Hits as well. You know what I mean?

So you'll still play Dance Wiv Me, Bonkers, Fix Up, Look Sharp, the big hits?
Yeah, they're the big crowd-pleasers but it's nice to have the balance. The harder stuff and the crowd-pleasers. Because it's on a beach it's all about Holiday and stuff like. I'm sure it's gonna work. Bonkers always works over there.

Have you noticed your audience changing as the years roll on?
You know what? It's mainly young people I see because they're the ones that are always at the front. They're just so strong and they hold their position. No one can move them.

Your albums have always pushed forward, taking grime into pop and big EDM territory, why did you want to look back with Raskit?
I don't really think Raskit was an old-school grime sound, it's just rap music. Because I could… people don't really understand this. The big pop stuff? That's actually more of the challenge.
The stuff on Raskit, Boy in da Corner and all that, that's my comfort zone. That's easy. Bonkers and Dance Wiv Me, Holiday and all them other big songs - even the Robbie Williams one. Making those songs you're playing in a different field. You're playing with the popstars. The super-produced, manufactured big music. And that's not necessarily how I operate. That's harder to do. Raskit is just me going back into my comfort zone.

I remember when I first heard Boy in da Corner back in the day it sounded like nothing else. Do you think finding a totally new sound could happen again?
Yeah, it's simple! If I do the beats. That's why Boy in da Corner sounded the way it did because I did the majority of the beats. All of that stopped around my third album. That's when I stopped making the beats myself. To get the complete, original, out-of-this-world sound would be for me to sit there and actually make the beats again.

Are you likely to do that?
Yeah, I am. I don't think I'd do that 100 per cent. I like working with other people. The way I see it is, if someone else has got a good beat I won't not use it because it's not mine. So there will always be a few other people. Just like Boy in da Corner. I didn't make 100 per cent of them. But I made 80 per cent.

We're just over a month in now, how are you feeling about 2018?
I feel blessed because from, like, November I threw myself into the studio. I didn't say nothing to the label I just went in and started making stuff. I'm ahead of myself so I already feel comfortable in this year. It feels like there's no pressure. It's fun again. I usually jump in the studio from midday to midnight. I just make sure I'm in there solidly a few days a week. And then good stuff happens.


LOWDOWN
Who: Dizzee Rascal
What: Splore Festival
When: The festival runs next Friday to Sunday. Dizzee plays the main stage on the Friday night.