Upcoming British rapper Dizzee Rascal is grateful for every bit of success he has - because he fought his way out of the ghetto pattern of drugs and violence to get there.

The 18-year-old yesterday (10SEP03) became the youngest person ever to win Britain's prestigious Mercury Music Prize, and is amazed at how far he's come from his tough childhood in Bow, East London.

He says, "Growing up was about poverty mainly. It's not the roughest area but it's rough enough in that there's guns, drugs, the usual. I saw things first-hand, shootings and stabbings. The majority of us had to sell drugs or rob.

"I didn't sell drugs. Music, that was the main thing, an escape.

"I started off the gutter way, man. I cut my records myself and gave them to the DJs. I had to pay with my dinner money to get on pirate radio. Sometimes I didn't eat."

The youngster had another scare earlier this year (03), when he was stabbed at the party resort of Ayia Napa, Cyprus - but he's philosophical about this trial too.

He adds, "People have tried to stab me before. All this madness, it's not new. You can either dwell on it or dwell on revenge - or you can get on with your life.

"I'm still here and I care about my music first and foremost."

11/09/2003 02:04