Kehlani, Linkin Park, Chip. Lethal Bizzle, Ed Sheeran, Professor Green, Wiley and Tinie Tempah are just some of the A-list collaborators that Stormzy has pulled into his orbit since his breakthrough single ‘Not that deep’ reached public consciousness in 2014.
Mobo and Brit Awards stand as a testimony to the 23 year old South Londoner, who’s riveting personal narrative has been unfolding for public consumption culminating in the release of this years ‘Gang Signs and Prayer’ debut album. Not strictly grime, and spread across hip-hop and R&B genres, Stormzy used the long player to reveal intimate elements of his personality; a feat which has counted moves by the mainstream press to reductively label him as a square-jawed, hoodie wearing, firestarter.
Live, Stormzy continues his willingness to expose his vulnerability and challenge gender stereotypes.
Bursting onto stage with serious charisma and intent, and to a chorus of ‘Wenger out'(!?), Stormzy drops straight into ‘Cold’. Minus a hype-man, and set to the standard grime sounds of sirens, alarms and minimal synthetic beats, Stormzy’s delivery is untouchable. His flow uses clear pronunciation, London-to-the-core, intense staccato patterns to communicate themes usually avoided by mc’s who’s ‘keeping it real’ personality means that anything outside of machoism is avoided at all costs.
Aside from Scott Weiland, this may be the sharpest opening to a show I’ve ever seen. It’s flawless.
Elseswhere the show treads carefully through a palette of aggressive grime and soulful r&b, somehow managing to ride out moments of intense moshing with sing along tales about cuddles on the sofa. It’s Stormzy’s charisma that is used as the weapon to control the audience’s expectations, and manage such changes in energy. A less considered artist may have lost the crowd at certain moments.
Highlight ‘Shut up’, the 45 million times viewed diss, provides the highlight of the set. Whilst not a one hit crowd pleaser, it’s the track that sends the crowd home with a message that yes, you should never be disrespected, but intellect is always the preferred response.