December 12, 2019
(#Merky/Atlantic UK)He’s become so famous that even the Archbishop of Canterbury loves him – but this brilliant second album shows how difficult Stormzy finds stardom
Stormzy: Heavy Is the Head review – a bright light on the dark side of fame | Alexis Petridis album of the week
“When Banksy put the vest on me,” says Stormzy, a matter of minutes in to his second album, “it felt like God was testing me.” It’s the second time he’s mentioned his headlining appearance at this year’s Glastonbury in as many tracks, but who can blame him? A risky but ultimately triumphant, even epochal performance, it served to underline Stormzy’s unique position among his UK rap peers.
Britain is currently teeming with fantastic MCs, but Stormzy is the only one your dad knows the name of. In the two years since the release of his debut album, Gang Signs & Prayer, he has become a boundary-crossing figure in British cultural life. Not only is he able to take a single as uncommercial as the dark, minimal Vossi Bop to No 1, but he has translated his commercial success into roles as a philanthropist, publisher and activist with enough clout to have his opinions raised by those interviewing the prime minister. He has attracted praise not just from the usual sources but from the vice-chancellor of Cambridge University and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has said he prepares for officiating major events by listening to Stormzy’s 2017 single Blinded By Your Grace: neither are figures noted for their in-depth knowledge of freestyles, diss tracks and Lord of the Mics clashes.
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