Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr. (born 26 July 1993), known professionally as Stormzy, is a British rapper, singer and songwriter. In 2014, he garnered attention on the UK underground music scene through his Wicked Skengman series of freestyles over classic grime beats.
Also known for his controversial and outspoken comments on UK politics, Stormzy endorsed Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2016. On 21 February 2018, he performed a freestyle at the 2018 Brit Awards, calling out Theresa May for her perceived inaction in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire the previous year. When he performs "Vossi Bop" live - including at major events - Stormzy tends to encourage the audience to chant the lyric "Fuck the Government and fuck Boris" to him -- the latter a reference to former London Mayor and now British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Stormzy has said about his school years: "I was a very naughty child, on the verge of getting expelled, but I wasn't a bad child; everything I did was for my own entertainment. But when I went into an exam I did really well." He said he got six A*s, three As, and five Bs on his GCSEs, but then only achieved a "humbling" ABCDE on his A Levels: "For someone who would cuss in class and was on the verge of being expelled, it was A Levels that showed me that in life you need work ethic." He studied for an apprenticeship in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, and worked in quality assurance for two years at an oil refinery in Southampton, Hampshire.
2014-2015: Dreamers Disease and "Shut Up"
After garnering attention on the UK underground music scene via his Wicked Skengman series of freestyles over classic grime beats, Stormzy released his debut EP Dreamers Disease independently in July 2014. On 22 October 2014, Stormzy won Best Grime Act at the MOBO Awards. Later that month he became the first unsigned rapper to appear on Later... with Jools Holland performing the song "Not That Deep" from Dreamers Disease.
In November 2014, Stormzy collaborated with rapper Chip and Shalo on the track "I'm Fine", also appearing in a video for the song.
On 7 January 2015, Stormzy came number 3 in the "BBC Introducing top 5" on Radio 1. In March 2015 he released the single "Know Me From", which entered the UK Singles Chart at number 49. In September 2015, he released a final instalment to his "WickedSkengMan" freestyle series, "WickedSkengMan 4", onto iTunes, along with a studio version of his "Shut Up" freestyle over XTC'sFunctions on the Low instrumental. The track debuted at number 18 on the UK chart dated 24 September, becoming Stormzy's first top 40 hit and the first ever freestyle to reach the top 40 in the United Kingdom.
On 12 December 2015, Stormzy performed "Shut Up" during British heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua's ring-walk for his fight versus Dillian Whyte. Originally, "Shut Up", released as part of the "WickedSkengMan 4" single EP in September 2015, charted at number 59. Since the performance, it began climbing up the iTunes chart and into the top 40. As a result, Stormzy launched a Christmas number 1 campaign to get the song to number 1. It generated a large amount of support which made it enter the top 10 of the UK Singles Chart on 18 December 2015 at number 8, a week prior to the Christmas number-1 week, succeeding the chart position of "WickedSkengMan 4".
Stormzy on stage in 2018
2016-present: Gang Signs & Prayer, Glastonbury and Heavy Is the Head
In April 2016, Stormzy released the non-album song "Scary" before he went into hiatus.
After a year's hiatus from social media, Stormzy returned in early February 2017 via a series of billboard campaigns across London displaying the hashtag #GSAP 24.02. The album title was announced to be Gang Signs & Prayer. The album was released on 24 February 2017 and debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart on 3 March 2017.
In September 2017 after being presented with the Solo Artist of the Year award by Corbyn at the GQ Men of the Year Awards, Stormzy called Theresa May a "paigon", a word used to describe an untrustworthy person. Later the same month, the conservative commentator Iain Dale placed Stormzy at Number 100 on his list of "The 100 most influential people on the Left", describing him as "Corbs' favourite Grime artist".
In November 2019, along with other musicians, Stormzy endorsed Corbyn in the 2019 UK general election with a call to end austerity. He also said "people led change can be possible under a Jeremy Corbyn Labour government". He described the Labour leader as "the first man in a position of power who is committed to giving the power back to the people" and branded Boris Johnson "a sinister man".
In November 2017, it was revealed that Stormzy had posted a series of messages on Twitter in 2011 that were deemed to be homophobic. These included a tweet where he referred to a gay character on the soap opera EastEnders as a "fucking fag". He also asked another user who was discussing using hair straighteners if they were a "fag" and urged his followers to "put on BBC1 this little black boy is a fucking fag". He later posted a series of tweets, stating:
I said some foul and offensive things whilst tweeting years ago at a time when I was young and proudly ignorant. Very hurtful and discriminative views that I've unlearned as I've grown up and become a man. The comments I made were unacceptable and disgusting, full stop. Comments that I regret and to everyone I've offended, I am sorry, these are attitudes I've left in the past... I take responsibility for my mistakes and hope you can understand that my younger self doesn't reflect who I am today. Again, I'm sorry to everyone I've offended. To the LGBQT community and my supporters and friends, my deepest apologies.
In July 2018 it was announced that Penguin Random House division William Heinemann was to launch a new imprint in partnership with Stormzy, called #Merky Books. The imprint launched with Stormzy's first book, Rise Up, in autumn 2018, followed by Taking Up Space: The Black Girl's Manifesto for Change by Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi in summer 2019. That Reminds Me, a novel in verse by Derek Owusu, is the most recent, released in November 2019.
^ abBeaumont-Thomas, Ben (21 February 2018). "Stormzy asks 'Theresa May, where's the money for Grenfell?' at Brit awards". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 22 February 2018. Retrieved 2018. Theresa May, where's the money for Grenfell?" he asked the prime minister, adding that the government "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, we should burn your house down and see if you can manage this.