It was a brilliant coincidence that Stormzy's album was released mere hours after the polls closed for the general elections. Since Gang Signs & Prayer, Stormzy himself and his music have become enmeshed in political activism. From him calling Theresa May a criminal for her role in Grenfell or him being unafraid to express his disdain for Boris, politics and Stormzy have become intricately intertwined.
Thus it's understandable why Stormzy's head is heavy. He's considered the people's champion and somewhat of a national treasure. In a few short years he has become the poster boy for South London and the unelected spokesperson for the Black British identity. H.I.T.H is filled with disclaimers and clear ups, 'I'm not the poster boy for mental health', he says on One Second ft H.E.R in response to NME putting him on a cover without his permission. 'It's not anti-white it's pro-black' he quips, defending his Cambridge scholarship for BAME students. Stormzy is unafraid of being comfortable in his blackness, Superheroes is essentially a glorification of all things black 'Young black King don't die on me'/Young black Queens don't quit now'.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown but Stormzy isn't carrying the musical crown. At first, the album is a rollercoaster of emotions and one of quality. It opens with Big Michael, which transitions into Audacity, with the production on both songs being archetypal Stormzy beats. They are a sneer to his haters, a diss to his rap inferiors and a cocky brag about the success which he has enjoyed'No telling where I'm heading, could be Glasto could be Reading'. The production on Audacity is reminiscent of a car chase in a film. The single-line obstinate from the strings adds a sense of premonition and with Headie One perfectly slipping onto the beat to give his verse, it's as if they're on a high speed chase. One minute Stormzy is overly confident and the next he is deeply insecure, questioning his successes and trying to process the past of it'How did I buss so fast'.
Almost halfway through the album, your ears are bemused as to the musical journey you're being taken on. Tracks like Pop Boy and Own It feel incredibly superfluous and awkwardly placed. Stormzy is taking us on a journey, one of pain, regret, reconciliation and confusion, but that confusion is reflected in the placement and choice of tracks. On the album's most tender and honest track, Lessons, he seemingly confirms the rumoured infidelity with his ex, Maya Jama. Embroiled in his own wrongdoings, he begs for forgiveness and for a second chance.
The album's samples are one of its few saving graces. Stormzy samples Mary Mary - Shackles on Rainfall, the Tracy Beaker theme tune on Superheroes outro and Big Brovaz - Big Brother on Rachael's Little Brother. These sort of samples pull on our heart strings and invoke nothing but nostalgia. And not to mention the brilliant cameo from J Hus. J Hus comically opens the track 'Handsome' which is ironic and perfect. You're expecting a verse from Mr Ugly himself to grace your ears but then he sadly slips away.
With this follow-up from Gang Signs & Prayers we were expecting a storm but met with an anti-climatic drizzle. He's still the people's champion but he seems to have fatally succumbed to second album syndrome. So it poses the question, where does Stormzy go from here?