New band of the day - Dot Rotten (No 1,001)

Moving beyond mixtapes with a major label makeover, the rapper is experimenting with some very high-gloss grime

Hometown: London.

The lineup: J Ellis (vocals, music).

The background: Yes, he's been around for a while, known to keen fans of underground grime and people who keep their ears glued to Westwood or 1Xtra, and yes, he's been releasing mixtapes for a while, but he's New to Us. As in, when we walk down our high street, we're not exactly assailed by posters of him, and when we walk into WHSmith, pap snaps of him hardly vie for space in Heat magazine with Mark and Kirk from The Only Way is Essex. No, as far as we're concerned, he's a new artist, and as you may have noticed yesterday, we're quite concerned with new artists – grime ones, from Tinchy to Tinie included.

Not that we were expecting him to be grime. We assumed with a name like Dot Rotten he'd be a retro-punk, or an electro-punk, and image-wise some unholy cross between EastEnders's resident fag-clutching busybody with a fag fixed to her lips and a hunched, Dickensian urchin spewing out bile about Belsen and abortion.

We were wrong! He's a rapper, with some form – some mixtapes, as we said, and some beef, to employ the vernacular, with everyone from Wiley to Chipmunk. The jury's still out on whether Wiley annihilated Rotten or vice versa, but it's a measure of his mettle that he has emerged from a bout with the Eski don unscathed. Not just unscathed but with a new sense of purpose and a deal with Mercury, which is releasing his debut single proper, Normal Human Being, in a couple of weeks.

It's a far more polished version of the punchy, often punishing version of mixtape-era Rotten, and he looks great in the video - RIP the ghetto hoodie; in his place is a stylish young man who appears to have stepped out of a GQ advert for designer Italian suits. Where an earlier track, Talking The Hardest, found him rapping fast over a backing track that sounded like medium-strength DMX and boasting about being "one of the hardest barrers reportin'", on Normal Human Being he sounds, if not exactly compliant, then at least a bit more eager to please. Weird lyrics, though, as he raps over a sinister guitar figure about how he's just a regular guy: "I brush my teeth, wash my face," he explains, in case we thought he was some kind of self-cleaning automaton. He even does chores: "I take the garbage out," he says, and note the Americanism.

But just in case long-time Rotten-watchers are worried that he's gone soft, he offers by way of reassurance: "Even when I'm looking fabulous remember that I'm Rotten and I'm from the hood." Elsewhere on the single there's the sheeny rave'n'b of Microphone, the Neptunes-go-grime churn of Signature Sound and the Timbaland quirk-beats of Earthquake. He's not exactly off the Richter Scale, as he suggests on the latter, but there are signs of a significant talent on the rise.

The buzz: "Whether you're a hardcore grime head or prefer something a bit more deeper [sic] and calm, Dot Rotten is definitely someone that can deliver the balance between the two" -

The truth: Don't expect anarchy in Albert Square, but if you like sharp, staccato rapping over smart, spacious production, Rotten's your man.

Most likely to: Craft insights into the human condition over high-tensile rhythms.

Least likely to: Have a crafty fag at the back of the launderette.

What to buy: Normal Human Being is released on April 18 by Mercury.

File next to: Ice Kid, Chipmunk, Giggs, Wretch32.


Monday's new band: Craft Spells.


Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

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