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About Stormzy

Grime attracts big personalities, but even by the genre’s imposing standards, Stormzy isn’t so much a rapper as a force of nature: a 6’5” lyrical whirlwind boasting a powerhouse voice and one of the most impressive ascents in pop music, stepping up to headline Glastonbury within five years of his debut EP. Born Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr. in 1993, Stormzy was still a boy when grime was in its infancy, and he came up battling fellow teens at youth centres in his native Croydon, London. By the time he was 20, he had launched his “WickedSkengMan” series, uploading freestyles over classic grime beats, and he swiftly developed a rep for his tough staccato flow and pugnacious attitude. Fittingly, Stormzy performed his 2015 single “Shut Up”, one of his earliest hits, at a heavyweight boxing match. “I set trends, dem man copy/They catch feelings, I catch bodies,” he raps on the song, and it’s true that when he throws down the gauntlet, he tends to make history: 2015’s “WickedSkengMan 4” was the first freestyle ever to break into the UK Top 40, and in 2017, his debut album, Gang Signs & Prayer, was the first grime album to go to No. 1 in the UK charts, 14 years after Dizzee Rascal’s Mercury Prize-winning Boy in da Corner first carved out a space in UK pop for the upstart underground genre. But Stormzy quicky proved himself interested in more than just besting his rivals, instead using his platform to become the voice of conscience for young and marginalised people across the UK. At Glastonbury 2017, he delivered a moving tribute to the victims of that summer’s Grenfell Tower fire; at the 2018 BRIT Awards, he aimed a scathing freestyle at Prime Minister Theresa May, whose government he accused of negligence after the fire. Musically, too, Stormzy has shown a willingness to push beyond grime’s traditional limits, dipping into R&B and gospel as he vacillates between taunts and introspection. “I would be a bit fake if I just gave you pure grime albums,” Stormzy told Apple Music. “I’m going to embrace my musicality because that is true to me as well. I love melody and I love R&B and I love pop music. Bruv, I’m going to do whatever I like.”

Croydon, London, England
26 July 1993

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