by BellaJoli Gedeon
Stormzy isn’t the only rapper who’s at the forefront of UK grime, but he sure is claiming his space within the genre in more ways than one. Following his surprise single “Mel Made Me Do It,” he made a well awaited comeback with his third full length album, This Is What I Mean, a dramatic shift from his older releases with more stand alone R&B and gospel tracks and collaborations from a full roster of upcoming artists and big names.
This Is What I Mean speaks for itself as a work calling attention to Stormzy’s talent. He lets fellow creatives shine beside him while conceptualizing new ideas for tracks “Firebabe” and title track, “This Is What I Mean,” breaking expectations of his artistic path as an evolving artist. His faith often comes up through his lyrics as an insightful perspective on receiving guidance while navigating struggles. With “Please,” Stormzy emphases lines and pauses before sharing subject matter that’s personal – something he effortlessly pulls off on this new album.
Over the years, Stormzy has collaborated with a long list of rappers and singers while moving up into international stardom. Most famous of these is when he teamed up with Burna Boy and Ed Sheeran for the popular track “Own It” on 2019’s Heavy Is The Head. “Need You” and “Hide & Seek” follow a similar recipe to success with their afrobeats influence and theme of professing love for a special someone. Stormzy also won’t hold back from using his platform to denounce racial injustice whether it’s through press statments or performing onstage. He explores similar topics on This I What I Mean, especially on “My Presidents Are Black,” praising the empowerment of his own communities.
The tailend of This Is What I Mean is less bold coming from someone like Stormzy, but it succeeds at being inspirational. He’s calling the shots when it comes to putting out the music he wants to make, no matter how it’s received by fans. For example, “Holy Spirit” and “Give It To The Water” can bring practically anyone into a meditative state of deep thought, yet “Bad Blood” is still strong with its uplifting beats and easy flow, setting it apart from most of the later tracks. Though the second half of this new record is inconsistent in pace, Stormzy’s lyricism cuts deep with relatability.
This Is What I Mean is more reflective of Stormzy’s growth – not just as an artist, but as a person. He’s laying out all the cards by relating to the older version of himself and relishing in his recent triumphs. In this post-transition phase of Stormzy’s career, holding on to hope is second nature for him. He’s setting an example that there’s power in surrendering through song.