2019 has been a year like no other. Political chaos consolidated by blow by blow accounts of exactly what is going wrong in the world, made the UK feel as though it had a heavily saturated #badvibes filter hanging over it for a very, very long time.
One event which gave us a bit of respite and flooded us with some much needed reminders about the good that can be found despite the national bleakness was Stormzy’s 2019 performance at Glastonbury.
It was seminal yet stunning and, you may think I’m going a bit too far, but I think it also reminded us of some of humanity’s beauty.
Here is a reminder why Stormzy’s headline performance at Glastonbury 2019 was necessary yet refreshingly iconic:
He was the first solo Black British male to headline Glastonbury
British establishments have been sleeping on our awesomeness for far too long but it’s nice to see that they may have just about started to catch up.
49 years after Glastonbury Festival’s inception, it has finally decided to include a Black British male as a headliner.
Beyond fulfilling the long overdue Black British Male criteria, he is a woke philanthropist who is committed to using his influence to elevate the community. Roll through scholarships for black students to study at one of the best university’s in the world and a publishing initiative specialising in giving authors ‘from all walks of life…’ a platform.
He is also the youngest artist to have headlined Glastonbury after Bowie. It really warms my heart to see good melinated guys winning.
His outfit was necessarily shocking
Imagine you’re performing at Glastonbury. What are you going to wear? Something Designer? Maybe an outfit curated by an obscure but awesome Black British designer? How about a Union Jack stab vest?
Stormzy’s choice of outfit was an urgent, shocking comment on the state of play in the UK today. It just happened to be created by the infamous BANKSY adding even more weight to the significance to the garment and to the importance of addressing the social political issue of rising knife crime.
The murder rate by knife attacks in the UK has increased significantly in recent years. Unfortunately stabbings now seem to be reported as often as the weather does.
Stormzy’s choice to debut in a stab vest in what he described as ‘the performance of his life’ shows his commitment to using the platform he has created to addressing this festering issue. He paid homage to Damilola Taylor, one of the first young nationally reported victims of knife crime.
He also started his set by sampling a speech from MP David Lammy who provided supportive commentary on the nucleus of the UK’s knife crime issues. Stormzy seemed to try his very best to use his perfomance to emphasise that knife crime is an issue which needs to be urgently addressed.
This was not the end of Stormzy’s use of the stage as a political platform; he aptly stopped rapping during his number one song ‘Vossi Bop’ so that the audience could be heard screaming the line ‘F*** Boris’.
He used his entire performance to celebrate Black British culture
Those who know, know.
Black British culture represents a myriad of innovation, beauty,creativity, fun, skill, talent and boy did Stormzy give everyone a taster.
Behaviour that is often demonised, like young people hanging around together ‘battling’ and doing tricks on bikes were flipped on their heads and shown for the underlying solidarity and finesse that they embody.
In the vibrant battling scene he also proudly showed off his Ghanaian roots by including Princess K,an energised 10 year old Afrobeats dancer who confidently performed her role with gusto and skill. She was impressively at ease as she danced on the main stage at the biggest green field festival in the world and also seemed to have a great time riding on the backs of dancers in between her moments to shine.
There was also a cameo from Ballet black, a professional ballet company that focuses on giving Black and Asian dancers much needed opportunities to perform professionally.
He was confidently and authentically himself
As well as proudly displaying aspects of his Black British side, he also unashamedly proclaimed his Christian faith throughout his set.
He performed his top 10 praise song ‘Blinded by your grace, pt.1’ sat simply at a piano with Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, forcing the audience to focus on lyrics such as ‘… I was lost…But ever since you found me I’m blinded by your grace’.
He also performed his impassioned version of Kanye West’s ‘Ultra light Beam’ which included the soulful sounds of a choir as he sang the chorus ‘This is a god dream’ and rapped personalised lyrics further asserting his beliefs;
‘This is it sounds like when Glastonbury meets God…This is what it looks like when salvation meets South London’,expertly riding the beat throughout the entire faith baring performance.
As the crowd cheered signalling the end of his ‘Ultra light Beam’ performance he seemed to not notice and appeared to be taking a few moments to reflect on the meaning of the lyrics he had just performed to hundreds of thousands of viewers. Throughout his set and in between songs he asserted his faith; ‘We’re giving God all the glory right now’.
His confidence to be his entire self was an inspirational and comforting watch. We know that some in society often try to marganalise Christians and Black people but he took these often pejorative societal labels and wore them like a platinium prize.
He gave and received so much love
Stormzy seemed well and truly in awe of the historic moment in his career whilst performing at Glastonbury. After the audience’s enthusiastic participation in his classic ‘shut up’ he was so overwhelmed with the support that he could not finish his sentence; ;’Thank you for the most beautiful-‘. The audience swiftly took over with chants of his name.
Before his set was over Stormzy did a roll call of UK rap talent artists that helped to ‘pave the way’ for him, showing recognition of those that built foundations for him within the music industry including Kano, Skepta, Dizzee Rascal and Chip.
He also stood in solidarity of the talent that currently stands beside him; J hus, his cousin Nadia Rose and Lady leshurr were included in his listed interlude.
Honestly, the list went on for a long while
( A bit too long for my liking) but it shows his commitment to paying homage to those currently in the UK rap scene. The beef and competitiveness that usually characterises rap was no where to be seen. Stormzy truly showed off the best of Black British Ubuntu.
Stormzy spread more love for the rap community by sharing the stage with Dave and Freddo who he describes as having the UK’s first purely british rap number 1.
The love for Stormzy came right back to him. Even before the set was over, Dave could not leave the stage without saying; ‘I want to say thank you bro, you dont even know thank you bro’. As his formidable set was over Drake, Lady Lesshurr and Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn were amongst the notable names who all lined up to congratulate Stormzy on a stellar set and rightly so.
Stormzy’s performance was formidable. He showed off the lyricism and rhythm which is second nature to him whilst also making bold political points, celebrating his identity and hailing the UK rap scene. The most seasoned artists would struggle to juggle to pull of such an all encompasssing performance, let alone one who is just 25 years old.
Stormzy described Glastonbury as the greatest moment of his life but I have a slight hunch that with his talent, philanthropy, confidence and sheer good vibes, greater is yet to come.
Did you watch Stormzy’s performance? Was it one of your iconic moments of the year?
I hope that you’re having a good week