As everyone and their mother knows, Stormzy took to the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2019, becoming the first black British male solo artist to do so. As well as this being the biggest moment for the Croydon-born rapper’s career thus far, his set has become arguably the most important thing to happen in music this year and maybe even this decade.
At face value, Stormzy is a black British male, that enough already sets limits on him due to systematic racism and stereotyping from a minority of the public. Despite the limits he may face, this has never silenced him in his art or limited his freedom of speech. He is a man who openly discuss issues that minority men like himself face in this day and age despite ‘progress’ being made in the system, a man who has openly discuss knife crime, violence and gang culture in his lyrics, such as his song Wicked Skengman Part 4 shading those who indulge in these stereotypes ‘Everybody calm down, it’s a tracksuit. What the ****, man? I ain’t gonna stab you.’ Stormzy is also undeniably vocal about his political stance through his social media presence, public appearances and his tracks. His genre is rap and grime, which are not the ‘usual’ headlining slots and rappers who have come before him have always had a giant discography behind them. Stormzy’s accomplishment as a headliner has come with just his debut album and a few Eps, which showcases the level that he has managed to accomplish in a minor amount of time. Stormzy as an outspoken black artist has stuck true to himself and in turn, garnered an army of followers that aided his climb to the top, but that is not said to downplay the hard work he has put in over the years to make this name for himself.
As previously mentioned, the grime god has used his immense platform to speak on political issues and issues that minorities face in the UK and of course, he used his headlining slot to present that to a very white crowd. His set was a combination of the celebration of Black lives and also presenting the hardships of what it means to be black in the 21st century. Sampling Labour MP David Lammy’s speech on the disproportionate number of minorities within the criminal justice system, Stormzy made it known that he is aware and standing up for those who have unfairly been criminalized. Taking to Twitter, Lammy himself expressed his gratitude to the rapper for spreading this message to the crowd within the festival and the hundreds of thousands watching at home. ‘To speak about the injustice of young black kids being criminalised in a biased and disproportionate justice system. Humbled and inspired that he sampled my speech.”
???? @stormzy using his headline spot at #glastonburyfestival2019 to speak out about the injustice of young black kids being criminalised in a biased and disproportionate justice system. Humbled and inspired that he sampled my speech. Salute #Merky pic.twitter.com/iSG3PMssrd
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) June 28, 2019
The celebration of black lives continued throughout the set with the incredible Princess K, a ten-year-old dancer from Hertfordshire paired with quotes from Black female author Malorie Blackman. This continued with an all-black entourage and showed that despite the set informing many of the struggles that Black POC face daily, it also celebrated and embraced black lives and the power that they hold.
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Glastonbury 2019 performing with @stormzy on the Pyramid stage Words cant fully describe how I feel about yesterdays performance If i had to put it into words then the word would be GRATEFUL … Firstly i would like to thank @stormzy for this Massive opportunity it is life changing Also to @amberrimell?? @tourmusiclive @trevorawilliams @bronsk14 @_Nathanielwilliams @weaintregular @callum_powell88 @sweetboy_stylist @janellefraser @jordanjfunk for having my back and being on his back during the performance lol We had days of rehershals and practise but it all paid off Now i can say i am the first female dancer at the age of 10 yrs old to support a top grime Headliner at the @Glastofest Im so grateful to be chosen out of many dancers have this opportunity… also being the only female on the stage on that set and quouting from famous black female author @malorie_blackman who wrote the famous book series NOUGHTS AND CROSSES was mind blowing This is history and im proud to be a part of it I brought krump to Glastonbury as a female dancer with a mixture of afrodance Thankful … #princessk #stormzy #glastonbury #grime #merky #noughtsandcrosses #malorieblackman #krump #princesskofficial #poem #quote #dancer #history
Finally, the most talked-about moment of his set was the inclusion of a stab-proof vest sporting the Union Jack made by non-other than the artist Banksy. While many who do not understand Stormzy criticised this as encouraging knife crime, the message was evident that it is about condemning knife crime and those behind the vicious attacks that are happening at alarming rates.
Stormzy reached new heights with this incredible set that was moving and truly embraced what he stands for. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn summarised the performance in the best way possible, describing it as “political, iconic and the ballet was beautifully powerful. It won’t just go down in Glastonbury history – it’ll go down in our country’s cultural history.”
If you haven’t yet seen the set, you can watch it on BBC iPlayer here.
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