Islington O2 Academy – Thursday 17th April
The anticipatory tingle coursing through tonight’s crowd is noticeable before Stormzy’s arrival on stage. The 21-year-old south Londoner joins Novelist as the first potentially great figurehead of the recent grime revival, but where Novelist was keen to sign to XL and enlist the aid of Richard Russell, Stormzy has remained decisively unsigned in a nod to the professional free-agency of Chance The Rapper.
Stormzy’s star ascended after the release of the Dreamer’s Disease EP last year. It marked the transition from a teenager with formative mixtapes to a more discrete artist willing to funnel in more than the typical Wiley/Skepta influences. He’s namechecked the heavyweight record selling clout of his American contemporaries Kanye, Jay-Z and Frank Ocean as influences and it shows in more than just his recent work, more even than in the way he commanded Charlie Sloth’s total attention when he stepped up to for Fire In The Booth, – the way he navigates the stage tonight is clearly indicative of a young man with big aspirations. He’s convincing beyond simply being cocksure, in simple terms, he belongs there.
After a thoroughly gnarly rendition of ‘Not That Deep’ he decides to play a remix of the song. From which moment he’s joined by the likes of Fekky, the Section Boyz, Bonkaz, Yungen, Chip and, wait for it, Lethal Bizzle. The packed stage looks like a homage to Kanye West’s BRITS performance this year. Many in the audience can hardly believe it and Stormzy capitalises on their disbelief. Ending things with a positively militant rendition of his debut single ‘Know Me From’, it’s evident Stormzy’s rallying an army. Send word, Novelist should probably plan his next move post-haste.