‘Heavy is the Head’ proves 2019 is the year of Stormzy

Stormzy

Heavy Is The Head

Warner Records · December 13, 2019


Capping off a year in which he took a quantum leap to stardom, especially in the US, Stormzy released his second studio album, Heavy is the Head. The album is a chart-topping hit, setting a record for a Grime Rapper. For those who aren’t aware of what Grime is: Grime is a musical style closely related to hip hop and rap music featuring synthesizers and pounding bass, however it is typically only curated in the UK. As a prominent artist in the UK’s Grime scene, he made his claim to fame with his first album, Gang Signs & Prayer, which debuted at number 1 in England, but breaking into the US’s top charts and pop culture is telling of the rapper’s rise to international acclaim. 

Stormzy doesn’t shy away from the topic of his growing success throughout the album. On “Crown”, he references fellow artist Skepta, whom he dethroned as the top British hip hop artist earlier in the year, with the line, “heavy is the head that wears the crown,” simultaneously nodding to the album’s title and asserting that he is the king. Heavy is the Head was designed to be another number one debut from Stormzy and it certainly was. Tackling racism, criminal justice and even his own personal issues, Stormzy enlightens and entertains the masses.

This exceptional album has transformed Stormzy from a British icon to a global force representing the hip hop scene from lesser-traveled parts of London. Singles such as “Audacity,” which was teased the night before the album’s release, and “Own It” are aligned with the style and message of his first studio album, they are excellent examples of his iconic flow and critical lyrics found in Gang Signs and & Prayer. Another single, “Vossi Bop,” is his first number-one single in the UK. However, what makes his second project special and deserving of such acclaim are songs such as “Crown,” “Don’t Forget to Breathe” and “One Second.” The acoustic sounds from “One Second,” the heartfelt lulls of “Don’t Forget to Breathe,” and the undeniable captivation that is the ending of “Crown,” guide the listener through the repackaging of Stormzy. 

Another distinguishing feature of this sophomore album is the pivotal use of outros. Rather than boring, simple instrumental breakdowns, Stormzy repeats key lines, driving home the core inspirations for the album enriching listeners’ perspective, and piquing their interest. The engineering and production value are showcased beautifully in the outros, separating the album from his prior works. This is especially noticeable in  “Audacity,” which includes an eerie, quiet, almost spoken-word lyric to finish the song. He repeats the line, “when Banksy put the vest on me, felt like God was testing me,” referencing his legendary Glastonbury performance in which he wore a stab-proof vest made by Banksy, because how dare we forget the most iconic moment in Grime music history. It is also a testament to his now influential role in Britain; he’s now held to a standard where he must be a role model, and act on behalf of those who are silenced, which he so frequently speaks of in his music. This track essentially is Stormzy proving he’s ready for the spotlight. 

The album’s second production success is the quick, playful beats and instrumentals. The tracks are bass-heavy, just as rap music tends to be, as heard perfectly in “Pop Boy.” In his penultimate track, “Lessons,” he speaks on his own experiences with women, love, and role in influencing others, but more importantly highlights his musical range and ability to extend his influence into other music genres more similarly aligned with R&B. 

After Stomzy’s iconic Glastonbury performance, his album release further proves that 2019 is the year of Stormzy. This album is a refined form of Grime-style music tailored for the top of the charts. The album stays true to Stormzy’s London roots and his loyal, back-alley London fans, all while appeasing even the casual radio listener with lighter songs and featured artists like Ed Sheeran and H.E.R. Heavy is the Head showcases all of Stormzy’s best aspects as an artist: his lyricism, flow, track production, and musical range. Every song deserves a listen, and no song leaves you wanting to hit fast forward.

 

Listen to Heavy Is The Head:

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