Stormzy's highly anticipated album Heavy Is The Head is out now. Timed perfectly to coincide with the British election, it's a powerful, poignant project that once again proves Stormzy's place as the biggest Grime MC in Britain right now. To celebrate, here are our thoughts on the record as we walked through it.
1. Big Michael
Would you ever expect a Stormzy album to start without a bang? Beginning with horns and a damning, sporadic beat Big Michael is Stormzy announcing his arrival and it sounds big. "One week it's Blinded By Your Grace, the next it's bang you in your face," is a mighty line that's likely going to pick up plenty of tweets.
2. Audacity featuring Headie One
Stormzy dropped this one off just before the album dropped and you can see why. It's a trademark hit from him, flexing over a quintessential grime beat. Fraser T. Smith is on production here, crafting a heavy, decadent soundscape that offers the perfect field for Stormzy to rap lines like, "You're not tough or hard." Headie One has also had a great year and he successfully goes toe-to-toe with Stormzy here.
We already know Crown. He dropped it just before his Glastonbury headline set with a lighter-in-the-air moment in mind. It gives that too. It's a stirring earnest ballad jammed in between some of the heaviest moments on the album.
4. Rainfall featuring Tiana Major9
Tiana Major9 is yet to really blow up but this is a big break for her. She sings the hook to Mary Mary's Shackles at the tail-end of this song which is a nice surprise and an apt ending for a song that feels spiritual. This is the most relaxed Stormzy sounds throughout HITH. The beat is light and his delivery is self-assured without being overly aggressive.
5. Rachael’s Little Brother
We know Stormzy as a superstar but here he takes it back a few steps, referring to himself simply as "Rachael's Little Brother". It's a heartening moment and while he doesn't exactly pass up a flex, he takes himself down a few pegs and reconsiders who he is in his familial context. "So it's thank you to my mother and thank the Lord above us," he raps, showing appreciation for exactly where he's come from.
He isn't credited but that's J Hus you hear bringing in this song, one of the shortest on the album. Hitmaker Frank Dukes provides the beat alongside Drake and Kendrick producer T-Minus. It results in one of the most memorable hooks of the record as Stormzy raps, "Young, black, fly and handsome."
7. Do Better
The best thing about Stormzy is he's able to deliver hard grime moments and then switch it up for a heartening pop cut. Do Better is one of the few songs the MC doesn't have a writing credit on but he makes this song his own absolutely nailing the the melodic hit. This one's headed straight to the charts.
8. Don’t Forget To Breathe featuring Yebba (interlude)
Yebba is one of the best new voices around. She's been used for Mark Ronson and Ed Sheeran's record this year and now she appears here. Stormzy sings atop the track and Yebba provides an emotional backing, giving an necessary moment of introspection for the album.
9. One Second featuring H.E.R.
We didn't know how much we needed Stormzy rapping over H.E.R. adlibs until this song. This is the most soulful song on the album, boistered by a phenomenal H.E.R. hook. It's a tale of mental health and activism that has some of the most personal lines on the album including, "Heavy is the head, but the pressure makes you heave." That right there is the titular lyric of the album and a worthy one at that.
10. Pop Boy featuring Aitch
Grime hardcores will criticise Stormzy for flirting with the pop world and this is him owning the title. "I will never stop popping, I'm the pop boy," he concludes after telling us all about how much he can afford and how he's the "goat". It's a cheeky narrative switch and it's one of the most instantly enjoyable songs on the album.
11. Own It featuring Ed Sheeran and Burna Boy
We've already heard this one and we love it. It's the next big hit on the album and there's a good reason. It's the first afrobeat instrumental that Stormzy has rapped over but his melodic sensibilities shine through and ensure he's able to go toe-to-toe with the king Burna Boy. What's most notable at this point in the record is just how versatile he is. It's barely been on the same vibe for more than 2 or 3 songs and that's actually thrilling.
12. Wiley Flow
Another one that dropped ahead of the album and it's easy to see why. This is Stormzy telling us exactly why he deserves to be at the top while also paying his respects to grime king Wiley. "If you ain't got more than five top tens then I don't wanna hear no chat about chartin," is a line that he's going to have to update after this album clocks more hits.
Stormzy knows how to deliver a strong hook. He proved it with his breakthrough freestyles and it shines through strong on Bronze. Just read this:
"On this year, gone this year
Man ah eat rice and stew and
Man I'm strong this year
Big like John this year
Ball like Lebron this year
Storm's got a platinum plaque
But you man I'm getting bronze this year, yeah"
He delivers that so calmly that it's enough to frustrate anyone who is going up against him. His charisma is so present here that it's hard not to consider this one of the shining moments of the record.
14. Super Heroes
Pop Stormzy pops up once again to deliver a late album highlight. It features autobiographical lyrics alongside clever one-liners like, "Serena or Venus the way I serve it." You get the feeling throughout this record that he's happy to brag about his success but he's not complacent. He knows that it could be taken away at any moment but he's not about to let it happen.
We love Stormzy rapping over an organ. It first impressed us on Blinded By Your Grace and it hits again on Lessons. It's one of the most personal songs on HITH detailing his breakup by giving us genuine lines like, "You gave me the world and then I gave you disrespect." When he lets his walls down and admits his faults, it gives way to some of his best songwriting.
16. Vossi Bop
If you don't know this yet, you're really sleeping. It's his first UK number one and a cut that soundtracked the European summer. Watch this at Glastonbury and try and pretend your heart rate isn't rising.