- Read more: Alright, doubters – Stormzy’s Glastonbury headline set was a platform to elevate others, a statement of intent and bloody brilliant
Last weekend, Stormzy took to the Pyramid Stage as the first British rapper ever to headline Glastonbury. Prior to his performance, he tweeted that he was “overwhelmed with emotions” about being the first black British artist to top the bill.
“I am the first black British artist to headline Glastonbury,” he wrote. “At 25 years old I am the second youngest solo act to ever headline Glastonbury, the youngest being a 24 year old David Bowie in 1971. I’m overwhelmed with emotions, this is the most surreal feeling I’ve ever experienced.”
Refuting the rapper’s claim, Skunk Anansie – led by frontwoman Skin – responded by saying that they “beat” him to it 20 years earlier.
“Sorry Stormzy but we beat you to it in 1999! 20 years ago!” a post on the band’s official Instagram page read. “And while we’re on topic, I was the first black Woman too! @beyonce.”
View this post on Instagram
Sorry Stormzy but we beat you to it in 1999! 20 years ago! And while we’re on topic, I was the first black Woman too! @beyonce Wishing you an awesome nite tho, Kill it! You’re amazing and we’re all very proud 😊 @musicweekinsta @stormzy @bbcnews @bbc6music @glastofest ps. Real question is why it took 20 years!
Stormzy has since apologised, writing: “Skin from the band Skunk Anansie was actually the first black artist to headline glasto she done it with her band in 1999 no disrespect intended and MASSIVE salute to you – my apologies !”
Skin from the band Skunk Anansie was actually the first black artist to headline glasto she done it with her band in 1999 no disrespect intended and MASSIVE salute to you – my apologies ! ❤️ @skinskinny
— #MERKY (@stormzy) July 1, 2019
In a new interview, Skin called Stormzy’s set a “wonderful moment for black culture,” and said that this isn’t the first time that she’s been overlooked.
Speaking to BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat, Skin said: “It’s one of those things – Beyoncé said she was the first black female and I didn’t really say anything then. I love Stormzy, it’s all come from a place of love, but I did feel like I had to point out that we did it.”
She added that there was actually an argument for another British black artist to be regarded the first to headline Glastonbury.
“At the end of the day – and I don’t want to offend any Keith Flint fans out there – but you could argue Maxim was a frontman of The Prodigy. And they beat us to it in 1997!”
Forming in 1994, Skunk Anansie headlined Glastonbury in 1999, but, according to Skin, when the band played Worthy Farm her race was never explicitly mentioned. “It wasn’t a conversation that was being had whether we were the first or I was the first black woman or anything like that,” she revealed.
Explaining that she did however feel like it was something on people’s minds, she said: “Glastonbury had a certain face at that time and it was white rock artists and not many women either.
“So there were a lot of articles and newspapers that were asking ‘Why Skunk Anansie?’, in the same way that, when he did it, people were asking ‘Why Jay-Z?’ Because there’s a black face at the front of the band maybe people thought it wasn’t rock enough – that it wasn’t the right face for Glastonbury festival.”
Celebrating Stormzy’s headline slot, Skin thinks attitudes have definitely changed since her set on the Pyramid Stage.
“Twenty years later Stormzy is there and it’s just amazing to see,” she said. “To be honest I think 20 years is a bit too long. There could have been many black artists in that 20 years that could have had that slot and absolutely nailed it, from Dizzee Rascal to Goldie.
“But me and Maxim from the Prodigy are good friends and we’re just really proud for this next generation and bigging up Stormzy. None of us want to put even a hint of shade on his amazing success. We’re really delighted for him.”