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Stormzy steps back from grime in his introspective new album

Few artists can claim to lead mainstream British rap like Michael Ebenezer Kwadjo Omari Owuo junior, an artist from south London known as Stormzy. Since rising to prominence in 2014 with a series of freestyle verses that went viral on YouTube, his career has been crowded with landmarks. His debut album of 2017, “Gang Signs & Prayer”, was the first predominantly grime record to reach number one on the Official Albums Chart in Britain; he was the first British rapper to headline Glastonbury Festival in 2019; and that same year his single “Vossi Bop” rocketed to the top of the charts.

Other British rap pioneers like Chip, Dizzee Rascal, Lethal Bizzle and Wiley have harnessed their verbal dexterity to cater to an audience already familiar with the music; Stormzy has polished and repackaged grime—a gritty, distinctly British subgenre of rap—to appeal to mainstream listeners. Dropping bars over heavy sub-bass lines, sparse electronic drumbeats and pop-influenced piano melodies, he expounds on viral dance moves (“Vossi Bop”), the pressure of expectation (“Crown”) and the turmoil of a broken relationship (“Lessons”).

Read the review in The Economist.

[This piece was published on 30/11/22]

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