Exclusive – Wiley on Stormzy’s genre-defining Glastonbury moment: “I believe that Stormzy was sent by God”

The Godfather of grime also praised Dizzee Rascal, calling him the "greatest person I’ve ever known."

Stormzy‘s headline set at this year’s Glastonbury Festival was a genre-defining moment of epic proportions. Grime may have been here for a while but it well and truly arrived on Friday night when it took over the biggest stage in British music. Taking a huge step towards commercial acceptance, it wasn’t all about the music; it was about the message. Using the platform to elevate others while making a statement of intent and celebrating black Britain, Stormzy graduated to cultural juggernaut. Sharing his thoughts on the performance, what it means to grime, and who else he thinks should be up on the Glastonbury stage, Godfather of grime, Wiley talks exclusively to NME.

What were your thoughts on Stormzy’s set?

“The set was amazing! I’m really amazed by what I saw Stormzy do because I thought someone had done that already. When I saw him post, ‘I am the first black British blah, blah,’ I was like, ‘Nah, maybe you’re not.’ I wasn’t sure. I could have sworn on my life that I saw someone do it before. I really thought that someone like Dizzee [Rascal] or Tinie [Tempah] or someone had done it already. But they hadn’t, they had just played there, they didn’t headline.”

What do you think it means for grime?

“I think what he did means a lot to artists in England who come from a council estate, or come from the hood, or come from the neighbourhood, or come from poor families, or from lower class living. All it takes is mind, body, soul and brain. Stormzy’s not silly. He’s quite smart. So if you use your brain in this life you can get to different stages and you can use your voice to speak to your people. I think he’s a good example of doing everything that his team, his label, and his distribution tell him to do – he always gets it right. It’s like passing tests, or passing exams. I’ve never witnessed anyone come along and pass the exams as fluently as Stormzy did musically.

“The good thing with Stormzy is that his heart is so clean. He deserves these type of things. He does. And I’m happy that he did it. There are kids who I wish could have done it from before, back in my time. I wish Chipmunk did it. I wish Ice Kid did it. I wish Kano did it. I’ve had great kids before this day and I wish they had done it, but they didn’t. And I just thank God that Stormzy did.”

Stormzy Glastonbury

Stormzy headlining Glastonbury 2019

What does him shouting you out during the set mean to you?

“It’s amazing! It let’s me know that sometimes the wall is high. It needs Dizzee to stand and then me climb on his shoulders, then Kano to climb on his shoulders, then Skepta, then blah, blah, then blah, blah to climb on their shoulders for Stormzy to be the one who gets over the wall. Then someone throws him a bit of rope and he ab sails down the wall. That’s what I felt. Because when you’re doing it you don’t always see it that way. But one thing I’ve always remembered is that we are a scene, and that’s because of what I saw in hip-hop. So hip-hop and dancehall taught me what to do in grime because they were already doing it before we did it.”

Where do you rank Stormzy as an artist?

“You know what? I think one day God sent us Dizzee Rascal. One day God sent us Kano. I think on this day God sent these kids Stormzy. I believe that Stormzy was sent by God – and I’m thankful he was sent. And all the stuff he’s done, I just can’t believe he’s done it in such a short space of time because of how long it took us.”

That’s because you guys laid the foundation for him to be able to do what he’s doing.

“Yes, exactly – although I can’t feel that. You know like Eric B. & Rakim? Or KRS-One? They can’t feel what they’ve done for hip-hop but they know what they’ve done. Whether it’s 20, 30 years later, you don’t get the feeling of, ‘Oh yeah, I did this and I did that.’ You don’t get it. All that happens is people come up to you and say thanks or whatever but there’s no special feeling that makes you feel like, ‘Yeah, you man laid the foundation.’ It just doesn’t exist!”

Dizzee Rascal Wiley

Dizzee Rascal and Wiley circa 2002

You tweeted that you think Dizzee Rascal has done enough to headline Glastonbury. Care to elaborate?

“Well, I’ll be honest with you. He’s done the most out of any black boy I’ve ever known in England. I’ve never seen anyone do more than what he’s done. For me, Dizzee is the greatest person I’ve ever known. I know that he hasn’t headlined Glastonbury but if someone asked me who it is I’ve personally witnessed doing the most, it would be Dizzee. But for someone like MoStack, they could say Stormzy because they’re from this day. So even though I’ve witnessed Stormzy, and I’ve blessed him and he’s blessed me, I’m not from his time. You know what I mean?”

Even with all the public disagreements you and Dizzee have had, you still feel compelled to big him up?

“Yes, because no matter what me and him say to each other we can’t deny the fact that we met each other, we had a vibe, and then it went wrong a little bit – he turned right and we turned left – and then he did everything he needed to do. He didn’t do anything wrong in my eyes and so I’ve got no bad words for him there. In fact, I’ve got no bad words for him in any area. Basically, with no him there is no me and with no me there could have been no him. But the truth is, in our era I feel like me and him are the yin and yang of what we did so I can’t deny it. You can’t deny what happened whether you speak or not.”

Is this a step towards you two patching things up?

“Well, I’ve got nothing against him. Whatever we’ve said to each other, whenever we’ve said it to each other, it would have been said in anger, malice, emotion. It wouldn’t have been the two people at their most humble, while they do music, speaking to each other. Because if it was then we could only have goodness to say to each other. When I listen to his music it brings back memories. If he hears something old of mine I’m sure it’ll bring back a memory for him. So we can’t delete what happened. We can’t go to the pyramids and start chipping off the top. It happened.”