When it comes to identifying the current kingpins of grime, London – both the genre’s birthplace and vibrant heartland – can be divided into the four points of the compass – a Grime of Thrones, if you will.
In the north, the newly Mercury Prize-nominated Skepta reigns supreme from his Tottenham palace. To the richly-talented east, the genre’s godfather, Wiley, looks out from his Bow throne across the sprawling metropolis before him. In the lesser-renowned west of the capital, the recently-returned Ice Kid seeks to regain the hype he courted circa 2008 as Wiley’s protégé. And finally, we have the south: while the likes of Novelist, Section Boyz and Krept & Konan are some of the leading lights from this creatively fertile land, there’s one figure from Thornton Hill who truly holds the crown.
Michael Omari – known to you, me and your nan as Stormzy – is one of the biggest musicians, grime or otherwise, to emerge from south London in years, putting his area of the capital firmly on the map for all to see.
Stormzy’s surge to the top in the past two years can be credited in large part to his charisma, presence and dominance on the mic – as well as the proud sense of identity that he clearly possesses in terms of representing where in the world he hails from. Stormzy doesn’t forget Croydon, and Croydon doesn’t forget Stormzy.
With that being said, here are 10 notable Stormzy bars that were born in and clearly rep south London.
“I’m so London, I’m so south / Food in the ends like there ain’t no drought” – ‘Shut Up’
‘Shut Up”s video (and its 35 million views) for what is essentially is a diss track – calling out those who brandished him a “back-up dancer” after joining Skepta and “30 goons” on-stage with Kanye West at the 2015 BRIT Awards – sees Stormzy overtly reference his background in what is essentially his own backyard. The bar takes a darker turn, however, with “food” a reference to the rampant availability of drugs in his neighbourhood – Stormzy was a small-time drug dealer in his youth.
“In year 8, I was like 5’10” / But anyway, fuck that / Used to roll through the ends in my rucksack” – ‘Wicked Skengman Part 4’
Croydonites – do you recall seeing an unusually-tall teenager in 2005/6 walking around the ends with a rucksack? If so, you laid eyes on young Stormzy.
“Had four bills and I bought a new car / Little red whip that I bought for my marge” – ‘Shut Up’
Marge = mum. And now Stormzy’s making money, he really can buy a nice red car for his mum.
“We all know you’re a good child / So pull up your jeans, get off the street and go do your mum proud / Go get a job and don’t come out your house, mug” – Know Me From’
No doubt there’s a lot of pretenders and big-talkers in south London who Stormzy sees straight through – plus it’s fine advice. Go and do your mum proud, south Londoners.
“Your postcode don’t make you a gangster / You’re not bad, your area is” – ‘Not That Deep’
Stormzy wisdom in full effect.
“Ask that Morley’s man for more chips” – ‘Wicked Skengman Part 4’
Morley’s is a chain of fast food outlets dotted around south London – and Stormzy has immortalised the fine establishment in song form, forever. “There’s not a distance between me and the people that listen to me,” he told Noisey in November 2014. “I’m a fan of Rick Ross, yeah, but I don’t sell drugs, do you know what I mean? I go to Morley’s for £2 chicken and chips.”
“Fourteen, I was in the hood with the gangsters / Can’t be a dickhead in my hood, you’ll get bantered” – ‘Standard’
Nah, not bantered like you think it means – bantered as in battered. If you’re a dickhead in Stormzy’s estate, you’re going to feel the wrath of someone who doesn’t like the fact that you’re a dickhead. Maybe Stormzy himself.
“The woman in the Caribbean shop is always rude” – ‘My Hood’
On the MC’s collaboration last month with fellow south London singer RAY BLK, Stormzy took to reminiscing about the customer service offered by Croydon’s finest Caribbean businesses.
“Man talk greaze but I bet that’s fake / Dem boy dere never dropped no heat / Therefore, I will not check man’s tape” – ‘Scary’
Although Stormz says that he’ll “plug my scene, plug my guys” on his Beats 1 show, you’ve first got to be a) authentic, b) not a waste, and c) good. But, if you’re “talking greaze” (bigging yourself up), you’ve got to be genuine.
And one from the everyday – France and soon-to-be Manchester United footballer Paul Pogba is taught how to speak “south London” by Stormzy himself
Because Stormzy is for everyone, really.