Just before 10:30pm last night, there was a brief silence and darkness that fell over the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury. Stormzy was set to go on stage and make history. Just over an hour later, the crowd cheered Stormzy’s name in hope for an encore. The historical and iconic moment was complete…
The set started with a video clip of himself and Jay-Z discussing the pressure, the critics and spectacle of headlining Glastonbury but none of these pressures appeared to faze Stormzy one bit.
Entering the stage to start off the night with a performance of the 2015 track, “Know Me From”. The track was quite fitting way to announce himself on the stage. Not just due to fact that “Know Me From” was one of the tracks, along with “Shut Up”, that helped push Stormzy to the top of the scene in 2015 but also the transition the scene has gone through since 2015. Back in 2014 and 2015, the Grime/UK Rap scene was going through somewhat of a resurgence. It had become apparent to artists that, no longer did they need labels help or a manufactured sound to appease the musical hierarchies. The attitude that somewhat stalled the UK scene from around 2008 through to 2013 had been eradicated. Grime and Rap artists were now expressing themselves, exactly how they wanted.
Due to Glastonbury’s vast area and the amount of stages there actually are, Grime and UK Rap artists performing at the festival is far from something new. The obvious difference is the magnitude of last nights event. I mean, in 2016, Skepta appeared on the Friday afternoon slot to perform on the Pyramid Stage with other Grime and UK Rap artists performing elsewhere on the famous, Worthy Farm that year, but this was just the start though.
The whole set epitomised Stormzy and he covered all of his musical bases, with a fusion of Grime, Rap, R&B and Gospel. The 25 year old went to throwback songs such as “One Take Freestyle“, tracks from his debut album Gang Signs and Prayers and new tracks, “Vossi Bop” and “Crown“. Throughout his career, Stormzy has not been shy to shout out his comrades from the scene and to speak out on key political subjects. The fact that he was stood on one of the biggest stages in the world, did not bother him at all.
Starting his performance wearing a stab/bullet proof vest with the Union Jack on it to symbolise the need to stop knife crime. It has since been discovered that this vest was designed by Banksy who is known for his political pieces of artwork. During an interlude, “Don’t Cry For Me” featuring Rayleigh Ritchie was performed. Instead of using this moment to fill time, Stormzy decided to use it in the best possible way. Rayleigh sang from an elevated platform on the stage whilst two ballet dancers were also performing on the stage below. It was the message that went along with this performance that was key:
“Ballet shoes have traditionally not been made to match black skin tones. Until now. Previously, ballet dancers “pancaked” their shoes” with make up. Now there are ballet shoes…To match all skin tones. A huge leap forward for the inclusion in the ballet world.”
The message was clear…Although there are still racial barriers that need to be broken, some are currently being broken and last night was an example of one being broken with Stormzy being the first Black UK artist to headline Glastonbury.
Dave and Fredo were brought out to perform their huge track “Funky Friday”, Dave and Fredo have had impressive rises to the top of the UK Rap scene too. As well as Stormzy allowing Dave and Fredo to perform during his night, it actually held a bigger message. “Funky Friday” was the first Rap record to reach number 1 in the UK, which only added more history to an already historic night. Stormzy wants the whole scene to move forward and he will not allow anyone to be forgotten.
Towards the end of his set, he took a walk to a platform closer to the crowd and announced:
“This is the most iconic night of my life”
“There has been so many people that have pathed the way for me, so many different artist that have pathed the way”.
“Wiley, Dizzee Rascal, Skepta, Giggs, Ghetts, Wretch 32, Kano, Chip, Tinie Tempah, Lethal Bizzle”
Then, as well as announcing the ten names above, he went on to list over fifty other artists that are rising up but making sure, to state, there is so many more to name. As well this, Stormzy also paid respects to the late Cadet who sadly passed away earlier this year. Stormzy is all about the culture of the UK music scene, he wants everyone to win and recognises the importance of the role he plays as a pin up of the scene.
To fans of the rapper, his humbleness was already apparent but to outsiders, this was confirmed when earlier yesterday, Stormzy tweeted at his appreciation and somewhat disbelief at headlining Glastonbury.
As stated before, Stormzy now has become the first Black UK artist to headline Glastonbury and the second youngest artist to do so since David Bowie in 1971. That alone is progress and a massive sign of where the scene is heading. The scene is finally being appreciated for what it is and what it has been for years. It is not being looked at as flash in the pan. For years, the scene has been underappreciated and never reached the heights of other genres. In recent years that has changed and to certify that, this performance was a huge stamp that was underlined and written in bold.
The night will go down in UK music history and will be remembered for years to come. Iconic. Historical. Cultural.
Image Credit: The BBC