Audio Review: Stormzy – Heavy is the Head

Posted January 20, 2020 in Music Reviews

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Heavy is the Head

[Atlantic Records]

Basking in the afterglow of his Glastonbury headline slot, Stormzy finds his stock higher than ever. If that Pyramid Stage appearance capped the south London MC’s rapid ascent, his second album tags on an exclamation mark.

Sounding just as vital as he did in 2017, Heavy is the Head follows the template of its predecessor, pairing truculent rap and grime with soulful R&B and gospel. Its sporadic concessions to pop reach an apogee with a cameo from the ubiquitous Ed Sheeran, and while you’d expect Stormzy to have one eye on the US market, he largely eschews the lure of the greenbacks.

Instead, there’s a sense that beyond the grandstanding, Stormzy prefers to use his quasi-regal status to empower and advocate, that the burden implied by the album’s title and iconic, slightly portentous cover art is to loyally wear London on his sleeve. The budget and production may be scaled up, but Stormzy’s forthright conviction and grassroots ethos remain uncompromised. Such a socially engaged tongue-lashing makes for a pleasing change of pace amid year-end stocking filler. Meeting the weight of expectation that follows a chart-topping debut should be harder than this. The achievement of Heavy is the Head is that it enables Stormzy to take his place on the pedestal his fans have long since created for him.

Words: Killian Barry

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