Why is Stormzy’s British identity always questioned?

Francis Akhalbey December 16, 2019

I was hyped up the first time I listened to Stormzy‘s second studio album Heavy is the Head. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t stop bumping my head, and I’ve literally had it on repeat since it was released.  

Smooth with articulate lyrics while sending out a message, it is more of a direct opposite to Skepta‘s Ignorance is Bliss, but I love the contrast. I also love the fact that two of the top British rap albums of the year come from two talented and influential men with strong ties to their African heritage.

While listening to Audacity on my third consecutive album spin on the day it was released, something struck a chord when he repeated the final lines:

When Banksy put the vest on me

Felt like God was testing me

When Banksy put the vest on me

Felt like God was testing me

The lines were in relation to the stab-proof vest he wore during his historic Glastonbury performance this year. Designed by legendary street artist Banksy, the vest, which had the Union Jack – the national flag of the United Kingdom emblazoned on it sent out a clear message about the worrying situation of gang violence in the country.

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Last night I headlined Glastonbury in a stab-proof vest custom made by the greatest, most iconic living artist on planet earth, the one and only BANKSY. I opened my set with words of encouragement from my hero and ultimate inspiration and the greatest rapper to ever grace planet Earth Jay-Z. I got to sing with the most incredible and legendary man I know – Chris Martin – a man who’s genius I am so in awe of that it makes me go to studio and try to emulate him. Raleigh Ritchie – one of our country’s greatest musical talents thank you my brother. Dave & Fredo – I love you my brothers, UK’s finest rappers, thank you from my heart for helping me light up the stage and making one of the most beautiful moments our culture has seen. Thank you to my lil brother @djtiiny theres no way in hell I could do this without you you have my back always and I’m so proud of you – you are my brother in arms we go to war together I appreciate you. To Bronski, Amber, Misty, Trev, Kojo, Tim, James, Sam & my whole tour/creative/production team I appreciate you all and I’m forever grateful. To my band and to my amazing choir who have worked tireless and given this their everything all whilst sounding flawless, effortless and amazing I appreciate you all very much I can’t do this without you. Massive thank yous to: the W.A.R dance crew you lot are now my brothers thank you for bringing a God-sent energy that I truly needed. To Princess K – you are a superstar, the crowd went absolutely crazy for you and I’m so excited to watch you take the world by storm. To Ballet Black, the grace, beauty and feeling you blessed the world with yesterday was felt in the hearts of millions. To Mac, Trizzy, Bobby, C1, Flipz my BikeStormz family I’m so happy the world got to see you lots talent and skills – you just showed the world about bikelife – be very fucking proud. To Big TJ & James for getting me ready and prepared for the energy this set would need. To the whole of my #MERKY team – my family who hold me down and have my back till the end. THANK YOU GUYS, THANK YOU GOD. I am proud of myself and I feel blessed and fulfilled and purposeful. Your Glastonbury 2019 headliner, over and out. ?❤️

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This was what got me thinking about his identity.

Here he is, rapping about Banksy and Glastonbury on one track while also touching on other societal issues and he is being criticized. The question that popped up in my head was why does a section of Brits always jump on his patriotism and nationality whenever he addresses an issue or does something?

He was born in the country, he’s spent his entire life there, so why can’t he, as a citizen, exercise his freedom of speech just like his other compatriots? Why is he indirectly reminded he was born to a Ghanaian immigrant and as such, should be grateful to the country that gave his mother a chance at a better life?

Why are blacks always hit with these kinds of responses when they share their opinions on social issues?

When he famously called out former Prime Minister Theresa May and her government for their handling of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire incident during his 2018 Brit Awards performance, he received the aforementioned response from some people.

Yo, Theresa May, where’s the money for Grenfell?

What — you thought we forgot about Grenfell? You’re criminals.

You’ve 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

Journalist, Amanda Platell, in a rather condescending piece in the Daily Mail after the May criticism suggested the Grime rapper should rather be “grateful to the country that offered his mother and him so much” instead of “trashing it.”

It’s alright to disagree with him, but was it necessary to bring that up? Is she saying he isn’t British enough to share an opinion on matters affecting his country because his mother is an immigrant?

At just 26, the Croydon-born rapper has used his fame, influence and resources to champion minority representation and most importantly encourage the youth to be more involved in issues affecting the country.

For the second consecutive year, the rapper announced he is funding the scholarships of two black Cambridge students. A very commendable gesture given that the number of black students in Oxbridge institutions is very low, a section of people reportedly had issues with it, claiming it’s racist.

Addressing the criticism in Crown, he raps:

I done a scholarship for the kids, they said it’s racist

That’s not anti-white, it’s pro-black

Hang me out to dry, I won’t crack

As a social figure, it’s expected there will be a group of people almost always having something negative to say about your every move even if it’s for a worthy cause, but it’s high time Stormzy is given a break. He is giving back massively to society and that is most definitely leading by example.

Prior to the elections, voter registration, particularly among the youth remarkably spiked up by 236% after he Tweeted his support for defeated Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and encouraged people to vote.

With a man wielding so much influence, negative sentiments, particularly about his patriotism and nationality shouldn’t be used against him anytime he shares an opinion. First and foremost, he is British, and though he doesn’t need any validation on that from anyone, his actions and endeavors should be enough to keep the naysayers silent.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown? Most certainly.

Last Edited by:Francis Akhalbey Updated: December 24, 2019


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