Fast-rising London Grime artist, with Ghanaian heritage, Stormzy launched his career clashing at youth clubs around his home town of Croydon where his performances evolved from Grime-only music that showed a love of artists like Skepta and Wiley, to more Rap oriented material that reflected Stormzy’s growing appreciation of artists like Drake, with the artist also citing the likes of Frank Ocean and Lauryn Hill as influences on his sound.
From the age of 11, he was winning rap battles at his local youth club, and his charismatic freestyles have earned him a huge following on YouTube. Late in 2013, he began uploading his ‘Wicked Skengman’ series of freestyles over classic Grime beats, gaining a lot of popularity [over 800,000 YouTube views] from the three installments he has released thus far. After garnering attention on the UK underground music scene, Stormzy made his official debut with the EP Dreamers Disease independently in July 2014.
The anticipation surrounding Dreamers Disease was incredible, with the EP reaching #1 on the UK iTunes Hip-Hop charts, prior to its release, showing the unparalleled support from UK music fans and also the unprecedented support Stormzy has gained from his contemporaries. Some of the biggest names in UK rap and grime were co-signing the South London rapper, creating a buzz that meant the project was due to be a representation of the future of the scene. The release of the EP was enigmatic, as fans were expecting it to drop on July 20, 2014 but Stormzy decided to keep fans waiting one more week, throwing them a curve-ball with the visuals for popular single “Not That Deep”, which generated even more attention, and nearly a million views on YouTube.
On October 22, 2014, Stormzy won ‘Best Grime Act’ at the MOBO Awards against some very tough competition as he overshadowed his main influences Skepta and Wiley, as well as Grime legends Ghetts, JME and Lethal Bizzle, to walk away with the first ever stand alone Grime award at the MOBO Awards. This was a big game changer for the whole urban industry and will inevitably open doors for not only Stormzy but for emerging UK urban artists in general. Later that month he became the first unsigned rapper to appear on Later with Jools Holland performing the now underground smash hit song “Not That Deep” from his Dreamers Disease EP.
October 2014 also saw Stormzy take to the Red Bull Culture Clash stage at Earls Court In London, to support Skepta, JME and Boy Better Know against the likes of A$AP Mob and Rebel Sound featuring Chase & Status, David Rodigan and Shy FX. On the back of his MOBO Award win, Stormzy took to the stage with all the hype and energy of the night, making his performance one of the many stand out moments. In November 2014, Stormzy collaborated with veteran rapper Chip and Shalo on the track “I’m Fine”, also appearing in a video for the song, the track is taken from Chip’s Believe & Achieve project.
With the hype train in full gear, November was a busy month for Stormzy. With performances at Noisey’s Grime Karaoke and Latimer Live and a feature on Grime scene godfather Wiley’s new album Snakes & Ladders, but November’s biggest moment was Stormzy getting on a track with US Hip Hop legend Jadakiss. Charlie Sloth was dropping a compilation album Hood Heat which paired the biggest acts from the UK and the US, and “Look Like” brought together Stormzy, JMC and Jadakiss for what was a huge look for everyone involved.
December capped off an amazing year for Stormzy, with another feature on Charlie Sloth’s Hood Heat compilation album, by way of “Keep On”, as well as the BBC really showing love and getting behind him. Stormzy covered everything from Drake’s “Hold On We’re Going Home” to Sam Smith‘s “Stay With Me” with a bunch of surprises thrown in the middle for his first appearance on Radio 1’s Live Lounge. The ‘Wicked Skengman’ was going from strength to strength and on January 7, 2015, the unsigned Grime artist was announced as the second runner-up in the highly coveted BBC Sound Of 2015 list, which aims to showcase the best emerging artists for the coming 12 months.
Stormzy was up against acts such as George The Poet, Novelist, Raury and eventual winner Years & Years. This was a strong endorsement and ensured 2015 will have Stormzy’s name written all over it. After an epic 2014, Big Mike came back with a brand new single “Know Me From”. After teasing fans on social media, MTV’s Best Of The Best MC whet the appetite of his adoring audience with the visuals to his official debut single “Know Me From”. The video sees the UK rapper show his sense of humour while taking fans back to his ends with a slew of shout outs to Wiley, Lord of the Mics, Adidas, Red Bull’s Culture Clash and even Eastenders whilst including a sample of Dizzee Rascal’s “I Love You” on the track.
Stormzy showed that his recent brush with fame has in no way affected his ability to effortlessly spit the coldest bars on wax, showing off his chilling delivery all while taking center stage in the video. Stormzy’s first single of 2015 makes use of a Zdot instrumental previously used by ‘Eski Boy’ himself. Across the track are references to Stormzy’s previous work as well as other grime history, with the chorus a chest-thumping six word repetition sure to shut down every rave. Highlights from the track include the South London rapper posing questions, such as: “If Grime’s dead, then how am I here?” as well as continually asking his new found friends, “Where do you know me from?“. “Know Me From” was released on March 8 2015 and is available to buy on iTunes here.
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Words by Kenny Leavett // Edited by Ayo Adepoju