Mar 16 2018


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Michael Owuo Jr. is a British rap artist that goes by the stage name Stormzy. He was born in London, England in 1993. I started listening to his music about a month ago. I usually listen to an odd combo of various rap music and Broadway musicals. I decided that I wanted to try something new, so I started listening to Stormzy. I am very into the English culture because of my passion for The English Premier League. Soccer and music are closely tied in England, and that’s where I found Stormzy. He is featured in a song by Jorja Smith called Let Me Down, and that is the first one I fell in love with. After that, I fell for 100 Bags, Cigarettes & Cush, Blinded by Your Grace Pt. 1 as well as the acoustic and non-acoustic versions of Blinded by Your Grace Pt. 2.

Stormzy’s music has American and British elements to it which he attributes to the inspiration he found in American artists such as Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Lauryn Hill. Most of the rap in England is very different from the rap music that we listen to in the states. In the USA, many rappers will intersperse a lot of singing into the rap songs. That is something that rarely happens with British rappers. I’ve also found that the cadence and the rhythm vary drastically in England. That is something that threw me off when I first started listening to it. Stormzy, on the other hand, has a rapping style very similar to Drake and Childish Gambino here in the US. His style, while dynamic, still has a distinct flavor that would group him with American musicians more. He will sing and rap in his songs for a combo that is rare in England.

Stormzy’s music style has varied over his career. It is very representative of past and present climate in the UK. He grew up impoverished in London, and he built up his career over time while also receiving an education. Much of his early music had lyrics about the drugs and gangs that he grew up around when he was a kid. It was aggressive to a point of excess, and that’s something Stormzy has mostly left behind in his more recent work. He is a very religious man, and he‘s combined his street upbringing with his religious education in his most recent album “Gang Signs and Prayer”. The name of the album seems a bit contradictory at first glance. In an interview about the album he said this:

“I wanted to touch on the gospel side of things, and my faith, because that’s so integral to my character. And the other side of my life — growing up in the streets, doing the things I’ve done with the people I was with, that is also a very integral part of me. I’m not a one-dimensional character.”

Stormzy’s religious background came about from his Ghanain heritage. His mother was born in Ghana, and Christianity is the largest religion there. That is because Britain colonized Ghana. They were in control until 1957. So the religious influence is still very string there.
While we don’t necessarily think about racial injustice in countries that aren’t our own, they do exist in similar ways abroad. There are problems in the UK that go beyond the racial undertones of Brexit. The issues that racial minorities face in England are surprisingly similar to the ones here While Stormzy hasn’t made songs about the injustices, he has spoken out about them separately from his music. He has done that with some significant backlash and controversy.
The Grenfell disaster occurred in the summer 2017. A huge apartment building caught fire in the poorer area of western London. Seventy-one people were killed while another sixty were injured. It is believed that the fire could have been avoided if the building had been properly checked after its renovation that had taken place fourteen months before the tragedy. While there was nation and country wide mourning and coverage, there was a shocking amount of inaction from the local and national governments.

Stormzy performed at the Brit Awards a few weeks ago. He performed two songs that perfectly dichotomize his dynamism, Blinded by Your Grace Pt. 2 and Big for Your Boots. In between the two songs, he did a freestyle in which he criticized the government, most notably Prime Minister Theresa May, on the inaction and unfulfilled promises following the Grenfell tragedy. He implied that the incident would’ve been handled differently if it had taken place in a wealthier, whiter area.

Despite and partially due to his rough beginnings, Stormzy has become a role model for young people in the United Kingdom. His growth in musical success as well as his growth on a personal level make him a very intriguing and inspirational artist. He is having an increasing impact on the social and musical scene in England, so it will be interesting seeing what he comes out with next.



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