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Stormzy, the grime star taking the UK by storm, joined Shelagh Fogarty on LBC yesterday. Following the release of his first album, where his track ‘First Things First’ calls out the LBC listener who accused him of promoting knife crime, he discussed hitting back at the LBC caller, featuring Crazy Titch (currently in prison for murder) on his album and almost being arrested in his own home.
SF: Shelagh Fogarty
On hitting back at the LBC caller who accused the grime scene of promoting knife crime…
SF: Now then, last year when we were discussing knife crime, it was October I think, I spoke to a man who suggested that the grime scene, grime artists, are partly responsible for the scale of the problem. Now I knew very little about grime music at the time, I still don’t know very much. I know a bit more, but on the day, we’ll hear what that man said in a moment, but on that day one of the most current and successful of those artists, Stormzy, who is with me in the studio now, hello.
SF: We’ll talk about whether you’ve forgiven me in a minute, tweeted me angrily, to object to what had been said on LBC that day, on my programme. Fast forward a few months, his new album ‘Gang Signs & Prayer’, is being greeted with huge praise and excitement and it includes a song which I’m so excited about, a song that refers to that moment here on LBC. Let’s start with the song.
OK, alright, first things first, coulda put you in a hearse
Man, I gave you boys a lifeline (lifeline)
I was scrolling through my tweets, had Adele up on repeat
And saw a madness on my timeline (on my timeline)
LBC’s tryna’ black ball me
And tryna’ blame your boy for knife crime (like what?)
I don’t use a shank, I got money in the bank
Man, I’d rather do a drive by
SF: “LBC trying to black ball me and trying to blame me for the knife crime”, let’s listen to what the gentleman who called actually said
Caller: It is quite blatantly in your face, it is to do with grime, the grime scene, which is the er, the music. You’ve got the grime artists in London that are absolutely huge, they’re like gods. But the grime’s changed. If you listen to the albums of Skepta, Stormzy, Wiley, when you listen to the lyrics, it’s all about robbing people, stabbing people, shooting people, you don’t mess with me, you don’t disrespect me.
SF: Address that, address what he said, because I know that’s what angered you.
S: Firstly, firstly, he said he’s listened to the albums of er, Skepta, Stormzy and Wiley but it turns out I’m just releasing my album so he hasn’t listened to any album from me, cause it’s my first album. Erm, clearly, it’s clear that he’s very, he’s very misinformed and it’s probably, he’s probably just had one glance at grime. Do you know what I mean? He’s probably looked at it on the surface, listened to a song, just watched one set and he’s made his mind up.
SF: Seen that some of the songs mention knives, mention drugs.
S: Yeah, yeah, yeah exactly, but the reason why we speak about, like, these things, cause these are things that go on in our communities, so we’re just, we’re just like being social commentators basically. But I feel, I feel like that is such a far-fetched statement. You see for someone to say that grime music is the reason for the country’s knife crime epidemic, that is wild. Like how, how do you even get there. Do you know what I mean? So yeah.
SF: Are you careful in your lyrics though, about how you reflect on what you see in your communities, are you conscious when you write those lyrics that there might be young kids loving it, loving your work, loving what you do and thinking, yeah it’s cool, knives are cool?
S: Yeah, no I, every time, so every time I write a lyric or I make music, I firstly I’ve got, I have the responsibility and the duty to tell my own truths. Like firstly, so whatever that is, whether that’s something positive or negative, I need to tell my own truths. Secondly, now that I’ve progressed to a certain stage, I try to be more careful, but I don’t, I don’t like to just like put some censor and say OK I’m not going to say that, because everything I talk about is truth, it’s things that I’ve done in the past or things that my friends have done, or things that we were immersed in, like so I have a responsibility to tell my own truth.
On featuring Crazy Titch, currently in prison for murder, on his album…
SF: I listened to the album in full this morning and I noticed in that interlude with Crazy Titch who’s in prison, erm convicted of murder.
S: Yeah, yeah.
SF: That you included, it’s the spoken word rather than the sung word in that interlude and he’s talking about your contribution to grime. He says you’re going to take it from a second rate genre to a first rate genre. But why would you include him in it? Is it because of his authority in grime? Is it because he’s a friend?
S: I included Crazy Titch because he’s a legend in the grime scene in terms of like, what he stood for and what he done for grime at that moment in time…
SF: So murder conviction or no murder conviction, he’s on your album?
S: Yeah, yeah, straight up, because of the fact that he’s come from a similar place, he’s now in an unfortunate situation where he’s gone to jail for a very, very long time for a serious, serious crime and it’s something that he regrets, it’s something that he doesn’t endorse, he doesn’t, he’s not proud of it, he doesn’t run around saying “Oh yeah I’m Crazy Titch and I done this and that”. But that’s someone who meant something to me in my childhood, me growing up. And it’s easy, I feel like things like this are so easy for like the public to have opinion on, like “Oh my god, Stormzy does grime and he spoke about a gun and he spoke about this, and he said…”.
SF: Or spoke to a murderer…
S: “Or spoke to a murderer” and all of these things, but our truth and where we come from is so different, so I don’t even expect like the world to get it. Like, all my friends in there, they understand why Crazy Titch is on my album, the importance of having Titch on my album. To someone else it’s like “Oh my god, he’s got a murderer on his album, he’s condoning all of that”. But I don’t expect people to understand that. Do you know what I mean?
On almost being arrested in his own home…
S: Sometimes I feel like, people will be surprised at how alike they are, like do you know what I mean. Like I’m sure there’s things we have both experienced in life, whether it, it might not be the same scenario but we felt the same pains, the same emotions, the same joys, like we’re not different, it’s all, it’s all good, it’s all love, and I feel like there’s this whole stigma of like, like the angry grime kids, like the angry black boys, like it’s not, it’s not, it’s cool.
SF: It’s big of you to say that because of something that’s happened to you quite recently which is to be arrested, or almost arrested, in your own home.
S: Yeah almost arrested.
SF: Door knocked down by the police because there was a black man living in a house in Chelsea, he must have broken into it.
SF: Tell me about it.
S: I feel like with that situation, I’m not, I would say I’m quite used to it, in the sense of I understand that that’s something that the police do. Do you know what I mean? The only thing that shocked me was because of how I’ve progressed in my career and the fact that I no longer live in this area, I no longer get up to all those troubles and mischievous things I do, and it’s still in my face was a bit of a shock. It weren’t really a shock, because I understand.
SF: To some police officers you’re still a black guy.
S: Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s all it counts, that’s all it counts as, like for my friends, my friends like who still live in the area I used to live in, they, like it’s, some of them was texting me saying ‘Bruv, that’s like, you’re lucky. Like, people are booming off our doors and just taking us away’. So yeah man, that I think, it’s a struggle that we’re very, very, very aware of and it’s been happening for a long time.