Where To Start With... Stormzy
What a ride the last couple of years have been for Stormzy. After topping the charts with his 2017 debut album Gang Signs & Prayer, the months since have been filled with milestone after milestone.
His debut became the first album by a grime artist to reach the summit of the UK Album Chart, a feat he followed up by winning Best Album of the Year at the BRITs, topping it all off with a triumphant set at Glastonbury 2018, in which he appeared wearing a Banksy-designed stab vest emblazoned with a colour-drained Union Flag – statement about the rise in knife crime in Britain.
He was also a key figure in the Artists For Grenfell charity which recorded and released a cover version of Simon & Garfunkel's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' to raise funds for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire that took the lives of 72 residents. That single saw Stormzy, along with the rest of the artists involved, top the UK Singles chart, an achievement that the Croydon-born grime MC repeated earlier this year with the release of his new album's lead single 'Vossi Bop'.
Several other singles – most of which, including 'Crown', 'Wiley Flow' and Ed Sheeran collaboration 'Own It' – followed in its wake, and the announcement of the title and release date for his second full-length offering Heavy is the Head finally came in November this year.
The new album contains 16 new tracks and features guest appearances from a range of collaborators including Heady One, Tiana Major9, Yebba, H.E.R., Aitch, Burna Boy and the aforementioned Ed Sheeran.
On the production side there are contributions from Jimmy Napes, J Cole, Fred Gibson, Illmind, Jay Weathers, Chris Andoh, EY and AdotSkitz.
You can find the video for his Ed Sheeran and Burna Boy-featuring single 'Own It' below, beneath that we've picked out five key tracks from Stormzy's incredible journey so far...
'Not That Deep'
By the time his first EP rolled around, Stormzy was already making a name for himself, particularly on the grime scene, with the release of his 2013 mixtape 168 and a feature on Chip's 2014 track 'I'm Fine'. The lead single 'Not That Deep', produced alongside London production crew Heavy Trackerz, was the first real glimpse of what Stormzy could do out front on his own, setting the scene for what came next.
'Know Me From'
Stormzy's debut single proper narrowly missed out on the Top 40 of the main UK Singles Chart, but it did rise to No. 7 on the UK's R&B chart, as well as reaching No. 2 on the Indie Singles chart, but that was enough to get the song plenty of airplay and bring his talents to a wider audience.
First released as a video which featured Stormzy freestyling the lyrics over classic grime instrumental 'Functions on the Low', originally created years earlier by Ruff Sqwad producer XTC, 'Shut Up' was originally a b-side to his 2015 track 'WickedSkengMan 4', but it soon became a viral hit online and was eventually propelled to No. 8 in the UK Singles chart, scoring the MC his first Top 10.
'Big For your Boots'
Arguably the biggest banger on Stormzy's debut, 'Big For Your Boots' climbed two places higher than 'Shut Up' and remained his highest-charting track until the release of 'Vossi Bop' earlier this year. If there was any doubt at that point that Stormzy was amongst the leading grime MCs, all doubt was swept away with this sing, which proved 'Shut Up' was no fluke.
'Blinded By Your Grace Pt. 2'
Our final pick is another highlight from Stormzy's debut album and, perhaps more than any other moment on Gang Signs & Prayer, indicates the growth and maturity that had developed in his sound since he first emerged on the scene. Like much if the album, the track mixes his trademark sound with elements of gospel to create one of the LP's most emotive moments.
Heavy is the Head is available in stores now - you can also find it here in our online store.