A London-based grime MC of Ghanaian heritage, Stormzy made a swift rise in the early 2010s to become one of the U.K.’s most critically-acclaimed artists. For its 2016 resurgence, however, the grime scene is entering a new phase.
stormzy vossi bop jacket – Hitting New Song ‘Sounds Of The Skeng’ Rolling Stone
Following the launch of the Stormzy Scholarship last year, we are pleased to announce that Stormzy is this year offering two scholarships to black UK students who are admitted to the University of Cambridge in autumn 2019. He began his set with a video featuring Jay-Z before taking to the stage to perform his 2015 track Know Me From. Stormzy has unveiled the video for his new single ‘Sounds Of The Skeng’. In a nod to London’s knife crime epidemic, the 25-year-old took to the stage in a stab vest emblazoned with the Union Jack, delivering a powerful and at times political performance.
Stormzy began rapping at the age of 11 against others at his local youth club. He studied for an apprenticeship, before pursuing a career in music, where he generated a lot of interest on the UK underground music scene. He went on to win a MOBO for Best Grime Act, and even launched a campaign to get Christmas number one in 2015. 2017 proved to one of the biggest years of Stormzy’s career with the release of his debut album ‘Gang Signs & Prayer’ as well as a remix of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape Of You’ hitting the No.1 spot.
In just a few short years, MoStack’s confident charisma has landed him collaborations with Stormzy, J Hus, Dave, and more. Not a bad start to a career, huh? While artists love to work with him, the melodic rapper remains private, tweeting in 2016 , Everything you need to know about me is in my music.” Even in his music, MoStack is more about celebrating stacks than self-introspection. For non-stop summer jams, press play on his newest record, Stacko.
After a successful run of summer shows using solo with Stormzy, TAWBOX were able to use the flexibility of the server for the wide range of summer shows for British pop star Rita Ora. A large portion of the shows has been for live TV performances. For Rita Ora‘s performance on ‘The Jonathan Ross Show’ we had three feeds of content projected onto three sets of domestic blinds over a pool of water. A fair share of perspective, direct and feed mapping were utilised for this, and we were able to manipulate the mapping with ease,” Bronski reports.
At last year’s Brits, West invited 40 grime artists – including Omari – on stage with him for his performance of “All Day”. At this year’s ceremony Drake decided to ditch the official afterparty and went to east London’s Village Underground to perform with “road rap” group Section Boyz and grime legend Skepta, who co-owns the grime label Boy Better Know (BBK). After the show, Skepta – another of the scene’s most successful players, whose recent album Konnichiwa charted at No2, beating Beyoncé’s Lemonade no less – announced to the crowd that Drake, who already had a BBK tattoo, had signed to his label, indicative of grime entering a new era.
Originally released online Stormzy released it as an official track in December 2015 after it reached 17 million views, taking on the Xfactor for the Christmas number 1. He then launched a Twitter campaign and ‘Shut -Up’ reached number 8 in the charts.
Technically, grime is defined by an MC “spitting” bars of 16 lines over 140 beats per minute. A relatively new genre that evolved from garage – with elements of Jamaican dancehall and dubstep – grime emerged in the UK at the start of the millennium. It’s aggressive, fiercely competitive and born on the streets of London. It’s the sound of the UK,” says Omari, who, like many other mc’s, consistently proudly references where he’s from in London.
Stormzy’s joined by his nephews in the video, as he takes on a few different characters – from a school teacher to a boxer – as he spits about his Brit Awards and about living “in the sticks now”. Following ‘Vossi Bop’ and ‘Crown’ , ‘Sounds Of The Skeng’ is the third single from Stormzy’s upcoming second album.
Yung Fume is another representative of the fruitful cross-pollination occurring in recent years between Atlanta and London. After the first single, Watch Me Flex,” was remixed by Ty Dolla $ign and WizKid, Fume landed collabs with Zaytoven, Young Nudy, and Lil Durk, who each gel with Fume’s Quavo-like flows and Untouchable” attitude. In 2019, Fume is more ambitious, releasing a 20-track mixtape titled Noughts & Crosses 4 filled with straight flexing over synth, bass, and hi-hat beats.
Maya Jama has spoken out about her split from Stormzy, saying because they are in the public eye people saw the break-up as entertainment”. Stormzy is the 11th most popular rap & hiphop music artist and the 9th most famous Stormzy is described by fans as: Political, Catchy, Great lyrics, Raw and Defines a generation.
In September 2017 after being presented with the Solo Artist of the Year award by Corbyn at the GQ Men of the Year Awards, 42 Stormzy called Theresa May a “paigon”, a word used to describe an untrustworthy person. 43 Later the same month, the conservative commentator Iain Dale placed Stormzy at Number 100 on his list of ‘The 100 most influential people on the Left’, 44 describing him as “Corbs’ favourite Grime artist”.
It was the iconic costume for an iconic moment – when grime star Stormzy stepped out onto the stage at the Glastonbury Festival this year, wearing a Union Jack emblazoned stab-proof vest. As an icon of black British culture, we are honored to have Stormzy play a part in this adaptation of a novel he’s such a fan of,” said exec producer Preethi Mavahalli.
According to The Sun, Stormzy banned Cook from standing near the stage at his headline Glastonbury performance in June and is said to have told senior figures at Warner Music, the parent company of Atlantic, that he would leave the label if Cook was not fired.
The first duo on Stormzy’s list, Krept and Konan have steadily built their career from DIY underdogs to speakers in Parliament. Before signing their first record deal, the duo’s combination of booming beats and mainstream appeal helped their 2013 album, Young Kingz, to peak at No. 19 on the UK charts. More recently, the Croydon veterans have become drill advocates. Their newest single, Ban Drill,” secured them an audience in the House of Commons where encouraging steps are being made to end censorship.
Another notable moment was when Stormzy detailed artists that had “paved the way” for him. He then name-checked numerous grime artists he is now supporting. He said: Tonight @Stormzy made history by being the first black solo British headliner at Glastonbury.
The last track of the album, Lay Me Bare, gives a few hints as to why. Stormzy calls it a whirlwind of emotions”, and it moves between resignedness, intimacy, regret and anger. The anger is mostly directed at his dad, who wasn’t around at all when he grew up. Father to young Michael and his two older sisters, Stormzy’s dad worked as a cabbie in Croydon. The few times Stormzy had contact with him was when he asked his mum for money and she gave him his dad’s number and told him to text him.
Of course, there’s no smoke without fire, and with each release Stormzy has proven his talent for crafting music that’s at once urgent and timeless, reflecting his reality while able to engage with people across divides. This quality is laid bare in his full length Gang Signs and Prayer as well as on 2019 singles Vossi Bop and Crowns, which showcase his unique blend of grime, gospel and R&B.
We pull up outside South Norwood Lake, where Omari filmed the video for “Shut Up”, and meander across soggy grass to the courts where he and his friends shoot hoops with a couple of school kids. Search “Shut Up” on YouTube and you’ll come across a video – now viewed over 32 million times – of a group of men in tracksuits congregated in a park. It starts with Omari drinking from a bottle of water before delivering the first killer line: “Man try say he’s better than me, tell my man shut up.” The video ends when Omari can’t finish and collapses into laughter; it’s candid, funny and utterly endearing, not something you can say about every rap video.
Stormzy ended his impressive survey of UK rap with a tribute to the late Cadet, who was tragically killed earlier in 2019 in a car accident. While Cadet charted twice last year with dancehall jams Advice” and Pumpy,” he was best known for his emotional and effortless grime performances like Closure” or The Stereotype.” The latter is a heartbreaking reminder to never take loved ones for granted and to live a life that makes you proud. Cadet fought for that until the end.
Stormzy was the first black British solo artist to headline the festival. He says he drew inspiration from Beyoncé’s Homecoming headlining set at Coachella in 2018. Not in terms of anything to do with how it sounded or looked,” he says. Trying to imitate Beyoncé, that’s a fool’s game. Just in terms of quality, and impact.” For those familiar with both black British and African-American imagery, the similarities between the two performances were clear. Each felt like a celebration of rich aspects of the culture that haven’t always found a way into the spotlight. At Coachella, Beyoncé brought with her the marching bands of historically black universities and colleges. At Glastonbury, Stormzy brought with him black gospel singers and ballet dancers, and snippets of speeches from a black British politician and blackBritish author.
Stormzy also identifies a significant similarity with Sheeran, which is one of the bedrocks of their success; that they are both “men of the people”. The rapper may no longer be stepping between the street and the sermon, but he’s still walking between two worlds: that of the celebrity and of the Everyman. Whilst Dizzee Rascal, to paraphrase the title of his own seminal debut, was the boy in the corner, Stormzy is the boy round the corner. One moment he’s making a surprise appearance on ‘Love Island’, the UK’s hottest reality TV show, or singing ‘Blinded By Your Grace’ at a funeral following a fan’s request on Twitter. His desire to stay grounded is evident from his surroundings, which are comfortable, but not ostentatious; this isn’t the habitat of a hard-living entertainer, but rather that of an elite athlete obsessively focused on his next race.