Six Things We Learned From Stormzy’s Oxford University Talk

Last night, grime artist Stormzy held an intense Q&A session with 300 students at the Oxford Guild. NME was there to see the man behind tracks like ‘Shut Up’ and ‘Know Me from’ address the audience. Here are six things we learned.

1) He’s not angry at the Brits anymore

Since blasting the Brits for their “embarrassing” lack of diversity on his track ‘One Take Freestyle’ back in January, Stormzy told the audience his “opinions have slightly changed”. He revealed that he met up with Brit Awards Chairman Ged Doherty to talk about how grime could be better represented at the awards, saying “we had a very very constructive talk, he showed me the categories of eligibility, I told him how these could be improved.” Stormzy then explained why the system still needs polishing, pointing out “I’m not sure how much of a race or minority issue it was, having spoken to Ged, but I think it’s more of a discussion about the voting panel. Most of them are middle aged white men. Most middle aged white men probably don’t know about little old Stormzy from London.” Stormzy added that, “bands like Little Mix do represent youth culture because loads of 16 year old girls listen to them” but that “Britain isn’t just Little Mix, One Direction and James Bay. There are thousands of people outside the O2 queuing up to see people like Skepta and JME.” However, he did want to keep things realistic: “Obviously I don’t think a Brit should go to like, someone on Link Up TV with 5,000 views.”

2) He got 6 A*s at GCSE

As well as 3 As and 5 Bs. “I was a very naughty child, on the verge of getting expelled, but I wasn’t a bad child; everything I did was for my own entertainment. But when I went into an exam I did really well.” However, at A-Level he got ABCDE, which he said he found “humbling”. “For someone who would cuss in class and was on the verge of being expelled, it was A-Levels that showed me that in life you need work ethic.”

3) He loves his mum

Most celebrities would bring a posse of famous friends or maybe a girlfriend to their talks, but it turns out Stormzy’s mum Abigail is his biggest fan. “That’s my mum there” he said, pointing to a lady on the other side of the crowd. Nodding to the audience and lowering his voice, the artist admitted that she “proper wanted me to be one of you guys” and attend Oxford University, but admitted that she had supported him in living his dream and kept him grounded. “My mum gave me that trust. She sort of said “I’m not sure if I approve of it but I’m going to let you do it’… I know it’s difficult to communicate your dreams to people, but I didn’t need to communicate my dreams to my mum.” When an audience member asked advice on how to get her mum to support her own endeavours, Stormzy responded “It’s not always about convincing your parents of what you want to do, but just saying ‘This is what I’m doing, this is what I love’.” Addressing the audience member directly, he said “That’s always the attitude you should have about your dreams. Our parents don’t always know what’s right. It’s a new age.”

4) He loves Kanye’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’

“That’s a very very sick album.”

5) He pledges to stop using the N-word

“It’s horrible and it’s disgusting, but I’m the absolute worst. It’s not cool, and I’m trying to stop. I talk about it like it’s smoking, it’s not that hard, but I do pledge to stop.” He laid his hands on the table with conviction. “You know, it’s very lazy of us, me talking as an MC here, but it’s good in a lyric, it flows well, and it becomes like a filler. But the word is way too horrible to be thrown in anywhere and I need to stop to be honest.”

6) His character in Brotherhood is “mean” and the film “represents the UK”

Stormzy will turn actor in the finale of Noel Clarke’s Kidulthood series later this year. When quizzed on his role, Stormzy was sketchy with details, but defined the character as “what I look like. People always meet me and go ‘You’re so much cooler than I thought you’d be and I’m like, what did you expect me to be like? I’m the muscle in the film.” Brotherhood, which began filming in November, is “the perfect way to end the series. Just when you thought it couldn’t go anywhere, Brotherhood is the end. It’s funny, it represents the UK and it represents London culture more than anything.” But it doesn’t look like he’ll be doing any more acting in the future: “The whole experience made me respect actors more. Acting looks like just turning up on set and transforming into this other person, but it was a lot harder.”