Stormzy and the Brits 2018

[image description: image of Stormzy at the Brit Awards 2018, shirtless with water falling down on him.]

The Brit awards this year was not only full of talented musicians and great performances; it was also very politically charged. Artists wore white roses or rose badges on the red carpet as part of a campaign to support greater equality and respect for women globally; a tribute to the victims of last year’s Manchester Arena attack was given by Liam Gallagher when he performed Live Forever; Dua Lipa, a 22 year old pop artist, in addition to being the most nominated female in Brits history, won Best British Female Solo Artist and the Breakthrough Award - in her acceptance speech, she thanked 'every single female that’s been on this stage before me that has given girls like me – not just in the music industry but in society – something to look up to, and has allowed us to dream this big’. Perhaps the most significant moment of the evening was when Stormzy, a South London Grime artist, won Best British Male Solo Artist and Best British Album for Gang Signs and Prayer, since this meant that he was the first black male to win an album Brit in twenty six years.  Moreover, Stormzy stole the show when he broke out into a freestyle calling out Theresa May and vocalising the anger of  Grenfell victims, and of the working class who don’t feel represented or cared about by May’s government, during a performance of “Blinded By Your Grace Part Two”.

This isn’t the first time Stormzy has stood up against injustice: he has professed his support for Jeremy Corbyn, British Labour Party Leader, saying “My man, Jeremy! Young Jeremy, my guy. I dig what he says. I saw some sick picture of him from back in the day when he was campaigning about anti-apartheid and I thought: yeah, I like your energy.”. In 2016, Stormzy spoke up about lack of Grime artists nominated for the Brits that year in his freestyle during One Take, saying

"What? None of my G's nominated for Brits? / Are you taking the piss? Embarrassing." and “But next year, I'm going on dark / ​Like wah gwan, is my face too dark? Last year, they told the mandem that to be nominated / You've gotta go on UK charts. So what do we do? We chart / Don't come here with your lies, don't start / Deny our ting I'll take you, calm."

Stormzy has shown his solidarity against the enslavement of Black people in Libya by sharing a petition to ‘Put pressure on Libya to take action to stop enslavement of black africans’ on his Instagram.

View of Grenfell Tower in May (left) and during the fire on 14 June
[image taken from here. Image description:
photographs of Grenfell tower - left to right: image of Grenfell before the fire, image of Grenfell on the day of the fire at 04:00
For information on what happened at Grenfell tower, click here.]

Stormzy contributed to the charity single for Grenfell fire, ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’, but he still thought that not enough was being done by the government: he took the issue of Grenfell fire into his own hands by performing his Grenfell freestyle at the Brits and advocating a petition on his social media platforms to ‘Call on PM to take action to build public trust in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry’.

Stormzy’s freestyle, which you can watch his performance here,  touched audiences across Great Britain, including myself - my favourite parts from Stormzy’s Grenfell freestyle are:

  • “Yo Theresa May where’s the money for Grenfell? What, you thought we just forgot about Grenfell? You criminals. And you got the cheek to call us savages. You should do some jail time, you should pay some damages, you should burn your house down and see if you can manage this. MPs sniff coke, all we just smoke a bit of cannabis. So don’t get me for this, so be woke. And this year I’m dishing out Ls like free smoke. You tell us that we’re thugs. I try and bust the myth, but someone tell the Daily Mail they can suck my ----.”

  • “I got two sisters, one black mum, they raised a prince. Raised by that black girl magic, what did you think?”

I thought it was very important to highlight the activism within Stormzy’s Brit awards freestyle because Grenfell Fire is an issue involving class inequality in the UK - recognizing Stormzy's message on such a wide-reaching platform is crucial to making further change within this issue. As highlighted in Amelia Foy’s poem ‘No Rich People Died at Grenfell’, the tragedy occurred because of a government that lacked in care for the working class. People with more money wouldn’t have had to put their whole lives into a flammable home. People with more money wouldn’t have to look at their burnt home every day and remember that the  Big Ben is being renovated in London. People with more money wouldn’t have died in the flames ‘while our government sat back and tanned’. People with more money wouldn’t have their lives risked for £2 to be saved per square metre of cladding.

Stormzy said “I didn’t have a fortunate upbringing, things weren’t lovely – things were terrible growing up. In terms of street life, financially, behaviourally, shit was the worst. I never had no money. You know the trampy kid in the class? I was that don. I used to think, fuck my childhood. But now I think look, that made me. Fortunate events have led to this, and I’m here now.” Stormzy himself shows what a working class, person can become, and not due to the Conservative/capitalist myth of ‘you can be whatever you want to be’ [as long as you have a ton of money to get yourself there], but rather because of intelligence, individuality and the need to fill the space in the music industry of black grime artists. He needed to become Stormzy as a representative of what a person like himself can be, and to use his platform to highlight the issues he’s dealt with in his own life.

Thank you Stormzy for highlighting an issue that our government chooses to ignore.
Sources of information: The Guardian’s article on Grenfell and their article on Stormzy / IBT Time’s article on Stormzy.