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Stormzy releases triumphant, introspective 2nd album ‘Heavy is the Head’

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DECEMBER 18, 2019

Grade: 5.0/5.0

Stormzy, the South London-based British rapper, recently released his second album, Heavy is the Head, on Dec. 13. Stormzy is known for his heavy grime influence, an underground form of British rap. His debut album, Gang Signs & Prayer, became the first independently released grime album to ever reach No. 1 on the UK albums chart in 2017. While Gang Signs & Prayer was Stormzy’s introduction, Heavy is the Head possesses a sense of self-assurance and experimentation, making for 58 minutes full of flavor, flow and organic originality.

Heavy is the Head moves between slow beats and faster, grimier beats. Staying true to his grime roots, “Wiley Flow” is introduced with a sound sample from Wiley himself, a pioneer of British grime. The sample has Wiley stating “You men are my youngers,” a thesis of purpose and due respect which Stormzy adopts within this heavy-hitting track. Throwing out various statistics and accomplishments, Stormzy delivers punch after punch with smooth lyricism and flow. 

Slower tracks give texture to the album, with songs such as “Rainfall,” featuring Tiana Major9, combining a variety of beats and vocals. “Rainfall” also sees Stormzy exploring the space within a verse, slowing down to “Let the rain fall on my enemies.” 

Similarly, “Crown” takes a slower approach in its contemplation of responsibility, as Stormzy jumps between singing and rapping, intoning that “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” This sense of responsibility permeates the track, with the noted statement, “They saying I’m the voice of the young Black youth.” Deeply self-reflective, the track strips Stormzy’s alter ego back to reveal Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr., a British youth. 

“Superheroes” follows this theme of responsibility but with a more upbeat tone, which the track’s sampling of the British children’s TV show “The Story of Tracy Beaker” constructs. “Superheroes” is a subtle anthem of Black empowerment, with Stormzy urging “young Black king, don’t die on me” and “my young Black queens, don’t quit now.” A song of celebration and endurance, Stormzy simply and sincerely addresses his Black fans.

Placed precisely in the middle of the album is the interlude “Don’t Forget to Breathe,” featuring YEBBA. “Don’t Forget to Breathe” is a single lyric repeated softly by Stormzy with vocalization from YEBBA. A gentle reminder to take time for yourself, the song is able to reach so many in its short two minutes.

The featured artists that Stormzy has collaborated with on this album add heated depth and flavor, making for some of the best songs on Heavy is the Head. Notably, the song “Own It” is a uniquely fun and infectious beat that urges you to dance. Featuring Ed Sheeran and Burna Boy, the song is a bridging of three cultures and three styles. Sheeran adds a sweetness to the track with his light singing voice, while Stormzy brings his charismatic rap style and Burna Boy meshes the track together with Afro-beat infused vocals. 

Perhaps one of the most surprising but brilliant collaborations of the album is Stormzy and H.E.R., an American R&B singer. H.E.R. lends her beautiful vocals to the track “One Second” while Stormzy slows down his rap style, playing with space and breath to create an atmosphere of contemplation. The song urges the listener to “Give me just one second, of your time.” Stormzy goes on to discuss, with a flow of liquid honey, that “I am not the poster boy for mental health/ I need peace of mind, I need to centre self.” Although the song refrains from discussing these topics in depth, it offers the listener a chance to slow down, since we all have a story to tell.

Heavy is the Head is a gorgeous album in which Stormzy showcases his dedication to his music and his willingness to push new boundaries. Branching out from grime, he explores a variety of beats, flows and flavors, which come together to create a deeply introspective album. 

Contact Nathalie Grogan at [email protected].
LAST UPDATED

DECEMBER 18, 2019


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