Review: Stormzy - 'Heavy is the Head' (Atlantic)

Released prior to Christmas 'Heavy is the Head' comes off the back of the rappers’ genre-defining headline set at Glastonbury.
Posted: 6 January 2020 Words: Matty Dagger

Released prior to Christmas 'Heavy is the Head' comes off the back of the rappers’ genre-defining headline set at Glastonbury.

The sheer impact of Glastonbury’s pedestal was not overlooked by Stormzy, as he recalls that fabled night throughout ‘Audacity’ - signing off the track with the lyric “When Banksy put the vest on me, felt like God was testing me.” Referencing the Union Jack bulletproof vest he adorned on the pyramid stage (also included on the album cover).

Said pedestal has given Stormzy even more influence in both musical and political spectrums, as no topic is shied away from on the album. This shows his in-depth understanding of a broad range of subjects relatable to a lot of different people. Mental health, racism & classism are all touched on, although he addresses them with humble dismissal as opposed to using them as an accessory for his own entitlement. (He states “I am not the poster boy for mental health” in One Second)

Twitter has been a huge part of his career, and this gains several mentions throughout too. The nature of the platform seems tailor-made for him given his highly intelligent & inclusive voice. Not only does he use Twitter to garner support, but to call out any hate for him and his peers which is still very much prevalent; likely always will be due to the subjectivity of his art.

Recently Piers Morgan went online to lambast the fact Stormzy told a group of school children that “‘Boris Johnson is a very bad man.” which sparked a debate of divided opinion. Piers claimed that using his influence in this way “wasn’t cool”.
Stormzy responded:

“No it isn’t cool, it’s the truth. Again, they asked me a question and I answered it truthfully and with jest. I gave em my opinion, they’ll grow up and be able to make their own, this ain’t a shocking incident pal sorry.”

Such nonchalance in his response further shows that he didn’t say it to provoke a reaction of outrage like many of his peers seem to (e.g. Slowthai’s severed Boris Johnson head at the Brit Awards) but was passing opinion in a more wizened manner as opposed to the brashness of his counterparts. And this is the kind of intuition that sets him apart. Where others can come across as overly performative in their tirades, he sincerely expresses his thoughts with both experience and non-conformity.

Stand out single of HITH ‘Crown’ showcases this ability to call out his critics best. One line, in particular, is highly poignant:
“Brothers wanna break me down I can’t bear it, I’ve done a scholarship for the kids they say it’s racist - that’s not anti-white it’s pro-black”.

Where in the past he may have resorted to anger, telling his doubters to “Shut Up”, Stormzy uses reason to not only defend himself but to educate others on why he has constructed his particular views. It shows that ‘Big Mike’ has grown with the limelight, as a public figure, artist and most notably, a person.

The album is littered with guest slots and name drops which is typical of the grime genre, as no other UK music movement support each other in the way that artists within the grime scene do. This is a huge contributor to the phenomenal rise that it has enjoyed over the last decade or so. They aren’t wrapped up in their own ego fuelled competitions, but instead, recognise that they are part of a wider collective that when banded together can quite literally take over - as the movement is beginning to see increased sales worldwide since blanketing the UK.

Stormzy embarks on a 55 date world tour in February, with 28 of those dates outside of Europe.

'Heavy Is The Head' is available on all streaming platforms.

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