11th November, 2022
Photo: Dave Benett/Getty Images for Burberry
Michael Ebenezer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Junior, more commonly known as Stormzy, is a 29-year-old, brit award-winning rapper/ grime artist and author from south London, with accolades growing weekly. He is arguably one of the most recognisable rappers heralding from the UK, but I don’t need to tell you that, everyone and their gran has heard of this man now. From his first big hit ‘Shut up’ back in 2015 to his now historic collaboration with Banksy whilst headlining Glastonbury and now, to his highly anticipated third album: This is what I mean, which is dropping in November 25th.
Photo: Jim Dyson
After a long three-year hiatus, Stormzy exploded back onto the scene with his seven-minute single Mel made me do it back in September, which was simultaneously a classic Stormzy diss track whilst also being an ode to black British culture, celebrating and platforming the incredible and often under-represented talent we have in this community.
But the question on everyone’s mind was: who is Mel?
Let me explain, Melissa Holdbrook-Akposoe- (31 years old), is one of Britain’s most inspiring, relevant, and real fashion influencer/ stylists. Notable clients include Maya Jama, Anthony Joshua and of course Stormzy. Ushering from a working-class background, she made it big in the industry without the usual family connections route which unfortunately, has become the standard. Instead, she miraculously managed to balance a criminology degree, part-time working as well as fashion internships in order to land her dream job in fashion. It is her sheer talent and work ethic that has enabled her to do what she does and has led to her popular follower-created hashtag #MelMadeMeDoIt- inspiring Stormzy’s big comeback.
Despite his meteoric rise and success, Stormzy did not have the smoothest start in life, despite his intelligence. On the Jonathon Ross show, he recalled a funny anecdote of his time in college playing practical jokes on his classmates where he trapped a friend under a chair and then proceeded to see how many chairs, he could then stack on top of him. This story perfectly embodies his playful and mischievous character. Yet, the accumulation of this type of disruptive behaviour led to his expulsion, despite being an intelligent student with an abundance of academic potential. An unfortunately, all too common tale for working-class kids in a school system that is not designed for them, particularly for the creative and independently minded ones, whose energy and out-the-box thinking is automatically translated as difficult and rebellious, rather than being harnessed and given direction so that they can reach their potential.
Rather than being bitter about this experience, Stormzy has instead created a foundation enabling scholarship funding for two black British students to attend Cambridge University every year, who otherwise would not be able to afford to attend. This perfectly encapsulates his generosity and social awareness by using his power to give opportunities and attempt to do some good by correcting systemic and societal issues we have in our culture in ways that he can, either through his art or through his projects.
For the more sceptical readers among us, do not worry, Stormzy has not gone full Hollywood on us. He is still the rebellious, down-to-earth, and charismatic man we all know and love, but with the addition of being seasoned with maturity, a remarkable level of self-awareness, and contentment. Which only adds to the anticipation of the direction he will take in his upcoming album and future projects.