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Heavy Is The Head: Stormzy and the burden of success


ZEIT ONLINE | News, backgrounds and debates

London (dpa) - As headliner at the famous Glastonbury Festival, Stormzy caused a stir last summer in front of around 100,000 people in a puncture-proof vest with a black and white Union Jack. The British hip-hop superstar likes it more comfortable off the stage.

In an interview with the German press agency in a recording studio in the Chiswick district of London, the 26-year-old wore slippers in December. "I can only recommend them to you, they are so cozy," enthuses Stormzy and laughs. His good mood and friendly nature are contagious.

The Londoner, who topped the British album charts two years ago with his debut “Gang Signs & Prayer”, has now released his second album “Heavy Is The Head”. The title is the short form of "Heavy is the head that wears the crown" and is a metaphor for the burden of success - its success. "It's about how I handle the load, I face the challenge," he explains. "But I also say that this challenge is scary and blatant."

With popularity came responsibility. Because Stormzy (real name: Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr.) has long been a role model for many. Time Magazine ranked him among the “leaders of the next generation”. Stormzy, who will be giving four Germany concerts in 2020, wants to live up to this award. "I'm super happy about it," he says. «And it's not like I rolled around one morning and woke up in this situation. I prayed and worked for it. »

The stab-proof vest from Glastonbury's appearance, which the artist Banksy had designed, was an indication of the increasing number of knife attacks in Great Britain. On the album cover of "Heavy Is The Head" Stormzy holds a similar vest in his hands. "The problem goes much deeper than a rapper in a stab-proof vest, a song or a thousand new police officers in the streets," he emphasizes. “It's a social, an economic, a racism problem. (...) I don't know the answers to that. »

Does politics have a solution? Before the UK election, Stormzy asked to register on social media and recommended that the Labor Party be voted. "There is a very long list of things that need to be done in this country," he says. "I would like to see that the disadvantaged are given a little priority and the weaker are strengthened." Labor boss Jeremy Corbyn is the right person for this, Stormzy believes.

He doesn't trust the conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson: "I think he takes a shit about it." What he thinks of Johnson, the rapper made clear in Glastonbury in the summer when he got his audience to "Fuck Boris" to call.

Not his first attack on the Tories. "Theresa May, where's the money for Grenfell?" He called during his appearance at the Brit Awards 2018, recalling the victims of the high-rise fire in the summer of 2017 with 72 deaths - and their relatives who were still waiting for compensation.

Stormzy sometimes finds it "overwhelming and discouraging" that almost everything he says, raps, sings or tweets gets a lot of attention. “I am not your poster boy for mental health” (he is not your model for mental health) he raps on the new album in the song “One Second”. It refers to a title page of the music magazine «NME» with the headline «Stormzy for mental health». "They just did it without a permit," he says. "They bought a picture of me and wrote it down."

At that time he had a guilty conscience. "I didn't want to look like someone who used this topic to make the headlines," explains the two-time Brit Award winner. «I only said something about this once in an interview. I never pretended to be a spokesperson for it, but suddenly they make me a figurehead and I get involved in it. You can't do that! I don't know how to deal with the crap myself. »

Unlike in his texts, in which Stormzy, like many of his rapper colleagues, knocks out great sayings, he speaks modestly and deliberately off the stage. The 1.96-meter musician, who performs the single “Own It” with superstar Ed Sheeran on the new album and has long been a sought-after collaboration partner, affirms that he wants to be captured as little as possible. "As much as I try to be a great musician, I try to stay the same person I was before," he says. At least so far, he has managed quite well.

Germany concerts: 20.02. Berlin - Columbiahalle, February 24th Hamburg - Docks, February 28 Cologne - Carlswerk, 01.03. Mainz - Old Post Office

Stormzy website

Source: zeit

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