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Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr
 
Stormzy - Crown
Stormzy - Crown
 
'If it doesn’t add up I give it to God'
'If it doesn’t add up I give it to God'
Stormzy
 
     
 
Michael Omari Jr is making a stand. Against the major label bosses he beat in the charts. Against faithless journalists and graspers from his past. Against every expectation of what grime MCs should want and feel. Shut up, sit down and listen. This is the world according to Stormzy.
 
This is the world according to Stormzy.
A ten-seater tour van, its windows conspicuously blacked out, waits outside the rapper's home on a crescent in west London. A decade ago, when he was called Michael Omari Jr and he was growing up some miles to the south - in troubled territory where London postcodes surrender to Croydon's, and where this British-Ghanaian teenager decided to take on the name Stormzy because storms were powerful - he always favoured vehicles with darkened windows.
 
Back then it was because the anonymity could appreciably lengthen the odds of a young man getting his head kicked in.
 
They'll identify Stormzy's vehicle - his "whip", as he calls it
Time, fortune and the canny application of musical talent have changed Stormzy's circumstances and these days the window tint only helps prevent a mobbing by well-wishers outside shows.
 
Later tonight, at a gig in Birmingham, fans will rumble him anyway. They'll identify Stormzy's vehicle - his "whip", as he calls it, using the slang he grew up with - and security guards will have to erect barriers to prevent a crush.
 
Gang Signs & Prayer, went to No1 in the UK charts
Stormzy is having a year. The first grime MC in a decade to make a serious sortie into the mainstream, his debut album, Gang Signs & Prayer, went to No1 in the UK charts in March. He is currently underway on the associated tour, a sellout, five-star-reviewed foray around the UK, Europe and the US that will culminate in Stormzy's appearance at Glastonbury this month.
 
When he topped the album charts, he pipped a same-week release from Rag'N'Bone Man, a Brit Awards-endorsed newcomer who has a record deal at Columbia and so came to the fight with the full promotional muscle of the label's owner, Sony, at his back.
That Stormzy won should decently petrify all the major labels
That Stormzy won should decently petrify all the major labels, because he's achieved what he's achieved this year without being signed to any of them
 
Indeed, he once rejected their overtures, founding instead a two-man label called #Merky with his old Croydon mate and now manager, Tobe Onwuka. Stormzy is 23 and Onwuka is 26. As far as I can tell, they run #Merky off their phones, wherever they happen to be.
 
As far as I can tell, they run #Merky off their phones, wherever they happen to be.
Today, Onwuka rapid-thumbs emails from a seat inside the blacked-out van. He frowns with the hunted but satisfied look of a manager whose client is much in demand. A booking for Stormzy to perform in the US on The Late Late Show With James Corden is taking shape
 
An LA-based music magazine has just put in a bid to run a profile. Stormzy might be having a year, but right now he's inside his flat having a massage, an hour's rubdown from an order-in physio called Antonio. Hurry-up messages are exchanged: whip to flat, flat to whip. The whip waits.
 
Read more at: 'If it doesn’t add up I give it to God'
 
Stormzy's Skin Fade
Stormzy rocks the classic “short back and sides” style Haircut
Stormzy rocks the classic “short back and sides” style Haircut
 
Stormzy rocks the classic “short back and sides” style. It’s a simple and effortless look that would sharpen any man’s appearance. The cut is an open one, against the grain, with a skin fade and a slick shape-up on the hairline
 
 
this rapper is by any standards a first-rate lyricist.
This rapper is by any standards a first-rate lyricist.
I done proper beautiful poetry. Proudly. It wasn’t secret
 
When he emerges onto the street, Stormzy looks happy and loose; he later tells me that his predeparture routine also involved him finishing off a joint left over from the night before. He wears on each of his feet a thin slice of luxury attire, slippers from Louis Vuitton, but is otherwise flawlessly outfitted in self-brand.
 
Stormzy's T-shirt says "Stormzy", his jacket bears the name of his label and his tracksuit trousers the name of his album.
 
Stormzy's height came in young. He was pushing 6ft as a preteen
Stormzy's height came in young. He was pushing 6ft as a preteen. These days he's basketball-big, 6ft 5in, carrying around the neat, triangular muscularity of a slender man who's lifted his way to heft.
 
"Too slim for all of that gym stuff," Stormzy was rapping, back in 2013, when he was a locally known and rising MC on the London grime scene. Two years later, on another track, "Might go gym/Might go get hench" - a prediction he made good on. Inside the tour van, Stormzy crams himself into the seat with the most leg room.
 
Stormzy and bars
Campbell: "All week we were 700, 800 sales ahead. Then on the Thursday, Rag'N'Bone Man's Amazon numbers came in." Stormzy: "He was 2,680 in front... All the facts were telling me I was going to lose.
 
All those label c***s." Onwuka: "I was told on Friday morning we got the No1 - but it wasn't certified yet.
 
So I didn't want to tell Stormz." Campbell: "I misheard. I patched him in on the call." Onwuka: "So then we had to tell him." Stormzy: "There was nothing to say. It was a moment of perfection."
 
grime music is not to everybody's taste
In the van, recalling it, Stormzy gestures with his hands in front of his face, snatching at the air for words. The fast, thrusting, hostile-by-default register that characterises grime music is not to everybody's taste.
 
Whatever you think about Stormzy's genre, though, this rapper is by any standards a first-rate lyricist. He's exact, economical, a master-hand at the necessary rapper's bluster and often very funny. ("I come to your club and I f*** shit up," raps this Manchester United fan in popular song Know Me From, "I'm David Moyes.")
 
He's exact, economical, a master-hand at the necessary rapper's bluster and often very funny
The Notes app on Stormzy's phone is crammed with fragments and couplets and chunks of verses - "bars" is the word Stormzy favours when discussing his lyrics.
 
his oral dexterity as a rapper extends to a general talent for chat
And his oral dexterity as a rapper extends to a general talent for chat. For now, though, as he contemplates the spring's unlikely commercial triumph, the words that tend to come to him so easily just won't. "I can't even. I can't even," Stormzy says.
 
Read more at: 'If it doesn’t add up I give it to God'
 
Stormzy - VOSSI BOP
 
Rise Up: The #Merky Story So Far Merky Book
Rise Up: The #Merky Story So Far Merky Book
stormzy on a break-neck mission to really make a difference
 
Stormzy might be best known as the man who first took grime to No1, but, recently, as he works on a follow-up to his astonishing debut, Gang Signs & Prayer, it’s Michael Omari Jr’s philanthropic achievements that have been making headlines.
 
Michael Omari Jr’s philanthropic achievements have been making headlines
From #Merky Books – a Penguin imprint set up to champion new, young writers, with Rise Up as the launch title – to the Stormzy Scholarship, a scheme that will see the musician fund black students’ education at Cambridge University, this is a man on a break-neck mission to really make a difference.
 
Penguin imprint set up to champion new, young writers
Here, in this exclusive extract from his upcoming book, Rise Up: The #Merky Story So Far (edited and co-written with Jude Yawson), Stormzy talks racism, responsibility and taking Theresa May to task over Grenfell at the Brits...
 
I’ve had to deal with racism for a long time
I’ve had to deal with racism for a long time. I can’t control who listens to my music. I’ve had racist lads commenting from time to time. I’m going to get the problematic parody videos. I’m going to get the neeky renditions, or the neeky politicians or television personalities standing up and using my words.
 
People are entitled to their opinions, of course. People can take what I say and claim it in some way, and I can call shit out, but I can’t control how my words are used, or what people take from my music.
 
There are some serious issues here, but I think that what I’m doing is so new, it’s going to take a bit of time for the general public to get used to it.
 
Take "Shut Up". I remember so clearly the first day, the first week, the first month after it came out. That was the authentic, raw sound. It’s a Ruff Sqwad riddim, but it’s raw. It’s a bad-boy freestyle.
 
Music is a thing you give to the world, and that’s all you can do
Music is a thing you give to the world, and that’s all you can do. That’s my only job. I just have to make sure it’s excellent. People can talk shit, but I know what it is. People were telling me that grime was dead when Gang Signs & Prayer came out. Is it? Is "Big For Your Boots" not grime?
 
Why is it not grime? Why? Listen to the lyrics:
Wanna come round here like a bad boy? Do it
Bun all the talking, go on then, do it
Running through the party, bottle of Bacardi
Bro’s in my ear saying, “Stormz, don’t do it”
Devil on my shoulder, I don’t lack
Hit ’em with a crowbar, I don’t scrap
Even when I’m sober, I’m so gassed
Say you ride but there’s no car and no mash
 
Why is that not grime?
 
At the end of the day, fame comes with some nonsense. It can feel vicious, and overwhelming, but let’s be real, it’s not the worst thing that I could be dealing with, is it? It’s not bad compared to what most people deal with. I know who I am. I can’t get twanged. I know I’m good.
 
It’s always been a beautifully confusing thing when I find myself being praised for certain things I’ve done or I’ve achieved. This is gonna sound like I’m trying to be humble or trying to sound like the ultimate nice guy, so let me be wary of how I word this.
 
But take the Brits performance, for example. I was quite famous before, and, God willing, I’m still gonna be successful afterwards. All I did was dedicate two bars to Grenfell. I sat down and wrote something out. And, yeah, of course it’s very dismissive to reduce that whole gesture to just writing a couple of bars, of course it is.
 
But in terms of what’s actually happened, in terms of the people who lost their lives and the people who are still suffering and the fact that the government has tried to sleep on a tragedy, it’s nothing. There’s no suffering.
 
As a young black man coming from the community that I come from, I recognise that I have responsibilities
As a young black man coming from the community that I come from, I recognise that I have responsibilities. If I’m going to be on stage for five minutes at the Brit Awards, I have a responsibility. Bearing in mind that not one of us has been on that stage for a very long time, if it’s ever happened. If I have five minutes, I’ve got to use that time wisely.
 
We live in this world. We know that racism exists
We live in this world. We know that racism exists. It’s getting better, maybe, but it still exists. We know that we have to work twice as hard to get anywhere. So when one of us succeeds, we have a responsibility. I’m not trying to be that corny don. I’m not on some presidential shit. I just know that no one is going to help my little brother. You can talk about things, but you have to take action. Man can go on stage and spray a two-bar about the prime minister and get a reaction. But there’s a lot more I can do. It’s a duty.
 
Read more at: An exclusive first look at Stormzy’s Rise Up
 
"I thought it could have got him to Oxford or Cambridge."
I thought it could have got him to Oxford or Cambridge.
I done proper beautiful poetry. Proudly. It wasn’t secret
 
"A place where your big bad brother can't save you," he once rapped, about the neighbourhood he grew up in. It's an area - Thornton Heath and South Norwood, on the Croydon borders - he has always referred to in his lyrics as "The Ends"
 
"A place where your big bad brother can't save you,"
There, he tells me, "You didn't show weakness. You didn't show vulnerability. You weren't having it from anyone. You weren't getting taken for a mug."
 
"You didn't show weakness. You didn't show vulnerability."
He did not have a substantive relationship with his father, Michael Omari Sr, a cab driver. (Twice in his life, Stormzy said, he went to his father's place of employment in Croydon to pick up informal alimony, £20 left in an envelope.)
 
Instead, he was raised by his single mother, Abigail Owuo, with his three siblings. They ate together, slept under the same roof, attended church on Sundays and otherwise led self-governing lives.
 
"Mummy was always working."
"Mummy was always working. Everyone else got up to what they got up to." In Stormzy's case, going by his lyrics, this included trading in small amounts of weed, robbing strangers, beating up a kid who owed him money in a JD Sports and getting stabbed in a fight.
 
He also wrote poetry. "I was this big, f***ing huge kid, getting up to f***ing all types of shit, and I done real poetry. Proper f***ing beautiful poems. And proudly. It wasn't some secret thing I was doing, away from the mandem. It was out there."
 
Clever. Hard to control
As a student at Harris Academy in South Norwood, he seems to have calibrated his behaviour to maximally infuriate educators. Clever. Hard to control.
 
A little poet and a little terrorist (his word).
A little poet and a little terrorist (his word). He was suspended for a period and the Academy's benefactor, Lord Harris of Peckham, had to sit him down for at least one straightening-out talk.
 
"He was a boy who had lots of ability and was very naughty,"
"He was a boy who had lots of ability and was very naughty," Lord Harris recalls. The Tory peer has a framed poem by Michael Omari Jr on the wall of his office, hung there for years without him knowing what became of the boy.
 
"His English was fantastic," Harris says. "I thought it could have got him to Oxford or Cambridge." Stormzy: "We had that conversation quite young. I don't think it was naive of him [to suggest those universities].
 
'I had the grades."
I had the grades." What changed, Stormzy says, "was my desire for it. I got caught up in other things. I wasn't feeling the whole education thing."
 
He sacked off his programme of AS-level studies in the middle of an exam: not feeling it. He took a job in a Screwfix, but that didn't last beyond a probation period.
 
Later, he won a place on an engineering apprenticeship and stuck with it, graduating to become a 19-year-old employee at an oil refinery on the south coast.
 
"Computers, clipboards," is Stormzy's summary."
"Computers, clipboards," is Stormzy's summary. He wanted to be MCing; he'd established a reputation in London clubs, one that he knew he must now tend.
 
"Rapping's easy, don. I do it in my sleep."
In 2013, he felt sure enough of his greenhorn talent to boast on a track, "Rapping's easy, don. I do it in my sleep." By 2014, he'd quit the refinery. On another track that year, Stormzy made a polite enquiry: "I'm good enough to get signed, right?" Time to mount a career.  
 
Onwuka was selling Land Rovers for a London dealership at the time. "That same car journey," he recalls, "I drafted my letter of resignation." Onwuka had been putting aside some of his salary, a sum that in 2014, he says, was just shy of five figures.
 
This became the seed money for an ambitious enterprise that Onwuka calls "realising the superstar that was so obviously there in Stormzy".
 
While seeing out his notice at the dealership, Onwuka incorporated Stormzy Ltd with Companies House. He got the pair of them a lawyer and an accountant. "I expressed the need to Stormzy that he not ever worry about finances. That had to be my job, while Stormzy worked on Stormzy."
 
"I'm good enough to get signed, right?" Time to mount a career.
This the rapper duly did, writing in quick succession the vivid, vinegary, slander-rich tracks Not That Deep, Know Me From and Shut Up. A one-take performance of the last - an epic of insults and retorts - was filmed by one of his friends in a carpark and uploaded to YouTube. To date, it's been viewed 55 million times. Early in Shut Up's ascent through the millions, the majors came courting.
 
Onwuka took meetings with at least six imprints attached to the big three labels, Sony, Universal and Warner. "From the outside looking in," the manager says, "labels are these places you go to as a musician and they make you. They do something.
 
"labels are these places you go to as a musician and they make you. They do something."
In these meetings I said, 'So now we're here in front of you, what is this thing that you do?' And I never heard an answer. I never got it." Before long, Onwuka was back on the Companies House website, incorporating #Merky Records.
 
"You've got a booking agent. You're doing shows. You've registered for a PPL licence [to collect royalties]," he recalls. "Slowly you realise you're three-quarters of the way to becoming a label. Why don't you just become a label?"  
 
"Why don't you just become a label?"
If there were aspects of the business that were beyond #Merky as a start-up (promotion, plugging, the effective distribution of their music) these had become services that could be bought in, on a pay- as-you-go basis, from the majors.
 
Employees at Atlantic Records, a Warner subsidiary, handled Stormzy's media promotion and his radio plugging. ADA (Alternative Distribution Alliance), also part of Warner, was subcontracted to distribute Gang Signs & Prayer. When that record sold 100,000 copies in a fortnight, profits would have been mostly #Merky's.
 
Brand association deals, by then, had already been inked with Adidas and Pepsi. The rapper is currently in a position, he says, where he doesn't have to check his bank account. Twice in the last year, he guesses. "Money's there. Money's being made. But I don't focus on it."
 
Read more at: 'If it doesn’t add up I give it to God'
 
Stormzy and the 'paigons'
Stormzy and the 'Paigons'
This rapper does not like to be paraphrased
 
This rapper does not like to be paraphrased. He feels the precision-wordsmith's contempt for journalists who would take away his great long monologues and compact them into shorter, blunter quotes.
 
When I find him in his dressing room, two hours before the evening show, Stormzy is in a mood to take someone from the media to task over this, and I'll do.
 
"I just don't trust a media outlet with my story,"
"I just don't trust a media outlet with my story," he says. I've tried to ask him about a specific personal matter and it's annoyed him. "I think I was silly to ever trust a media outlet with my story, because then it's a piece of press. It's an angle. It's bait."
 
Stormzy raps about depression on Gang Signs & Prayer
In the weeks leading up to our meeting, Stormzy has endured a grim little saga involving Channel 4, NME and some quotes he gave to the former about periods in his life when he has felt depressed. Stormzy raps about depression on Gang Signs & Prayer - about "lows" that have induced crying jags and flat-bound feelings of aimlessness. In offering these genre-rare admissions of frailty, the rapper infused his debut album with much of its originality and strength.
 
the rapper infused his debut album with much of its originality and strength
Stormzy regrets, however, discussing the matter outside the music. A fortnight after he opened up to a reporter from Channel 4 News about "the whole depression [thing]", NME took the quotes and used them as part of a special issue of the magazine about musicians and mental health.
 
Without Stormzy's permission or his foreknowledge, that week's NME appeared with a picture of him looking glum on the cover, under the headline: "Depression, it's time to talk."
 
He called them "paigons" - betrayers.
Stormzy tweeted furiously at the magazine's editors. He called them "paigons" - betrayers. "Imagine a personal battle of yours," he wrote, "being published on the front of a magazine."
 
The rapper has been cordial and patient with me all day.
The rapper has been cordial and patient with me all day. But, thinking of the NME fiasco, he's peeved. Around us, members of his entourage have already stood up to leave, to give us some privacy, but Stormzy has waved them to sit. "Stay, stay."
 
The truth is, I sympathise with him and I respect his wish to leave the specific matter of his depression alone given how it's been crudely pawed over by the media. But I can't go as far as to agree with him that one outlet's carelessness gives him a universal pass to dodge the discussion of so many other personal matters that are examined in his music.
 
He says he doesn't want to talk about his estranged father
He says he doesn't want to talk about his estranged father, because "I don't want to promote him." Fair enough. When I try to ask about the complicated and intricate politics of skin tone within the community he grew up in - Stormzy has rapped about the local handicaps of being a "dark-skin boy" - he answers, "Do you know what? I'm not gonna talk about this.
 
Because I feel like in print this is another thing that's going to look so neeky. It's gonna look stupid, dumb." We get into a little squabble when I try to question him about the time he was stabbed.
 
Me getting stabbed. How big is that now? Not so big. Who wants to talk about that?
Stormzy would argue, not unfairly, that as a self-exploratory lyricist he gives up as much as he wants to about his life in the music.
 
"Blinded By Your Grace"
His religious conviction is expressed in a beautiful two-parter on the new album called "Blinded By Your Grace"; his frustration with his father is there on album-closer Lay Me Bare ("You ain't seen my face for time/And the first thing you're asking me for is [money]?/F*** you");
 
 His gratitude towards a mother who raised him alone is there all through the mid-album track 100 Bags ("I ain't too proud/That you're living on the road [where] your son got stabbed"). I would argue that however finely turned these lyrics, it's only human for me to be curious, having heard them, about what it's like to get stabbed.
 
His contempt for the paigon-like question is obvious.
Stormzy shifts in his seat. His contempt for the paigon-like question is obvious. "To talk about getting stabbed... I get it. The negative story always looks sick. 'Oh, my days! He got stabbed! There's a story!'" His entourage laugh. Stormzy takes a breath.
He acknowledges that getting stabbed was an extreme thing that happened to him, "But not a defining thing... It happened, how old was I? About 18. So that's almost six years ago now."
 
He gestures around himself - a gesture encompassing the room, the entourage, the venue, the wider tour, the No1 album, the next album that will soon be in the works. "Me getting stabbed in my life. How big is that now? Not so big. Definitely a thing that happened. But not so much a big one...
 
Read more at: 'If it doesn’t add up I give it to God'
 
Stormzy and Maya Jama Are Changing the Face of London’s Music Scene
Zoë Kravitz Bound For Glory
Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr
 
The pair met three years ago through work, and live together in West London. Maya Jama wears Alexander McQueen. Stormzy wears an Adidas Originals jacket and Burberry T-shirt and jeans
 
Park Chinois, an absurdly over-the-top Chinese restaurant in Mayfair, London’s most chichi neighborhood, is exactly the kind of place you expect to find your average celebrities and wannabes. So it is very much not the kind of place true originals like grime superstar Stormzy, 24, and his girlfriend, Maya Jama, 23, a rising TV and radio presenter, usually hang out.
 
Maya Jama, 23, a rising TV and radio presenter
“No, not at all, man,” says Stormzy, known to his mother as Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr., surveying the restaurant’s purple, gold, and velvet decor when we meet in the downstairs bar. It is not, he says, their “kind of scene.”
 
The reason we’re here is that it is now almost impossible for the couple to go out in public in London, where they are harassed for selfies at every turn. Grime—which can, very roughly, be defined as British hip-hop—is still pretty niche in America, but in Britain it is absolutely huge, and this is in large part thanks to Stormzy. His astonishingly catchy and surprisingly beautiful album, Gang Signs & Prayer, released last year, was the first full-on grime album to reach number one in the British pop charts.
 
Gang Signs & Prayer, released last year
Stormzy’s truth, from ordering McDonald’s to making political statements, is what his fans love about him, and not just in Britain. Kanye West is a big grime fan—Stormzy performed live with him in London in 2015, which helped raise Stormzy’s American profile. He played Coa­chel­la and Glastonbury last year, and while the crowd was smaller in the U.S., it was no less passionate. To Stormzy’s visible astonishment, the audience shouted his distinctly London-centric lyrics right back to him. For example, “I’m so London, I’m so South/Food in the ends like there ain’t no drought,” a reference to his origins in South London and his brief career as a small-time drug (“food”) dealer.
 
Occasionally dressed by Burberry, Stormzy is more often in streetwear
Occasionally dressed by Burberry, Stormzy is more often in streetwear—today he’s in his favorite outfit, an all-black tracksuit by Blanks Factory and black Adidas trainers. “In my head no one can see me, but if you’re walking down the street and there’s a six-foot-five guy who’s all in black, you’re probably going to notice that,” he admits.
 
Jama is known on the red carpet for fun, short dresses in bright colors
A pinup for young women, Jama is known on the red carpet for fun, short dresses in bright colors. “I’m flying tonight, though, so I’m not very fashion today. I’ve gone for comfort,” she says, but she looks terrific: She’s wearing glittery hoop earrings, a short fake-fur jacket, a fashion-forward oversize hoodie from ASOS, black leggings, and white Adidas sneakers. Together they make a supremely cool pair.
 
Stormzy and Jama have used their platforms to talk about personal subjects that matter to them
What makes them even cooler is the fact that both Stormzy and Jama have used their platforms to talk about personal subjects that matter to them. Jama has spoken of the pain she felt as a child when her father served multiple jail sentences. (She is no longer in touch with him.) “When I was starting out I felt a bit nervous about people finding out, because I thought they’d think less of me,” she says. “But then I decided I should be that person that speaks about it.” Last year she made a critically acclaimed documentary, When Dad Kills: Murderer in the Family, about children of fathers who are incarcerated, or addicts.
 
Stormzy, too, was raised without his father, who abandoned him, his two sisters
Stormzy, too, was raised without his father, who abandoned him, his two sisters, and his mother when he was a child. He revisits this relationship and his rage about it in “Lay Me Bare,” a track he has described as “cathartic.” Last year, in a TV interview, he also revealed that he had suffered from depression, which he has written about in his music: “Like, man, I get low sometimes, so low sometimes/Airplane mode on my phone sometimes/Sittin’ in my house with tears in my face/Can’t answer the door to my bro sometimes.”
 
Newspapers called this candor “a game changer” in reducing the stigma around mental-health issues. Today he still looks a little shocked at the impact his words had: “I’m superproud in the sense that what I said was able to touch people. But I really didn’t enjoy being the poster boy. I’m still going through it and trying to deal with it,” he says.
 
In conversation, Stormzy is serious and engaged
In conversation, Stormzy is serious and engaged. He considers each question carefully and answers slowly. Jama, by contrast, is bright and bubbly, talking nineteen to the dozen. When recalling how they got together in 2014, he says simply, “We met in October, then we were going out by January.” Jama, however, goes into endearingly girlish detail:
 
“We met at Red Bull Culture Clash,”
“We met at Red Bull Culture Clash,” she says, referring to the global-music event where rap, grime, and EDM crews compete against one another. “You know, if I’m really honest, I knew I fancied him from the start. But I didn’t want anything yet, because, you know, you’re trying to do the whole friend situation first, and then I’d do, like, obvious hints that I fancied him and then take it back because I didn’t know if he definitely liked me. It was a childish phase. And then one day we just kissed, and that was that!”
 
And then one day we just kissed, and that was that!”
“It was three years and one month ago exactly,” adds Stormzy.
 
Jama, who grew up in Bristol, has steadily built a reputation as a front woman on TV and radio. At sixteen she moved to London, where she set up her own YouTube channel and was hired by MTV. She was recently a host for the popular Saturday-night TV game show Cannonball and is soon to appear on Sky One’s extreme-sports program Revolution.
 
Jama has steadily built a reputation as a front woman on TV and radio
Stormzy came to fame more abruptly. He attended a notoriously tough school in the London suburb of Croydon and worked briefly as a manager on an oil rig, watching grime videos during his lunch break. He’d always loved music and performed where he could. In 2014, he released an independent EP. Instantly, without even having a record deal, he began getting awards and bookings on national TV.
 
Stormzy came to fame more abruptly
He and Jama have worked together several times: Jama interviewed him on her drive-time radio show, and she appears in the video for his single “Big for Your Boots,” in which the two of them are hanging out—where else?—in a takeaway fast-food joint. He dedicated his song “Birthday Girl” to her.
 
He dedicated his song “Birthday Girl” to her.
“It’s the nicest present you can get from someone because it lasts forever,” she says with a smile.
 
They live together in West London, though with both of their careers taking off, they’re rarely there at the same time: He’s now working on a second album. After our interview, she was due to fly to New York to shoot a campaign, her first American modeling job. So with such busy schedules, what keeps the two of them together?
 
“The fact that we love each other. That’s the main thing, right?” Jama says.
“Yeah,” Stormzy agrees.
 
And do they make plans for the future? Both recoil a little.
 
“We’re 23, 24 years old; we don’t make plans!” Jama laughs. “Just carry on floating. We’ll see where it takes us.”
 
Read more at: Stormzy and Maya Jama Are Changing the Face of London’s Music Scene
 
Maya Jama On Celebrating Her Imperfections, Finding Massive Success
Maya Jama On Celebrating Her Imperfections, Finding Massive Success On Her Own Terms, And Stormzy
Maya Jama On Celebrating Her Imperfections, Finding Massive Success On Her Own Terms, And Stormzy
 
At 24 years old, Maya Jama is already a successful television presenter
At 24 years old, Maya Jama is already a successful television presenter and a rising star at BBC 1 Radio, and she has no plans of stopping there. “The thing I get asked most is, ‘How are you so yourself? How do I get that confidence?’” she tells executive fashion news editor Olivia Singer in the June 2019 issue of Vogue. “I always respond, ‘Do whatever you would do if nobody was watching; don’t ever hold yourself back because of other people.’ Sometimes I have to sit back and catch my breath a little bit. Hopefully this is the beginning of everything. Whatever I can do, I want to do it – because why the f*ck not?”
 
It’s a powerful attitude
It’s a powerful attitude – made all the more impressive by the fact that Jama’s path to stardom has been difficult in many ways. Opening up about cutting ties with her father as a teenager, she reveals, “I just felt like, if you can’t even make the effort to stay out of jail, why am I making the effort to go and see you?” It was while briefly reunited with him for a documentary in 2017 that she had an epiphany: “Meeting up with him made me realise, I don’t really know you. You’re more like a stranger with the same features as me.”
 
Vogue’s As Stormzy’s girlfriend, Jama is one half of Britain’s most beloved millennial power couple
Then, of course, there’s the small matter of her relationship. As Stormzy’s girlfriend, Jama is one half of Britain’s most beloved millennial power couple. “We didn’t ever want to do the whole [couple] goals thing together,” she explains. “But, after keeping things low-key for so long, we ended up living together, being in the same places together. It was gonna come out, and it did. It is what it is.”
 
it’s that down-to-earth attitude that has propelled Jama to mega stardom
In large part, it’s that down-to-earth attitude that has propelled Jama to mega stardom. Case in point: the 822K followers who hang on every one of her candid Instagram posts. As for whether she’s consciously trying to break down the illusion of female “perfection” by sharing refreshingly candid images? “If I own my imperfections, then nobody can make me feel bad about them. I’m not giving anyone else the power. With me there’s no surprises.”
 
Read more at: Maya Jama On Celebrating Her Imperfections, Finding Massive Success On Her Own Terms
 
Stormzy and Raymond Blanc make pistachio soufflé
 
First Acts: Maya Jama First Acts: Stormzy
 
Stormzy and grace, or how they beat the labels
Stormzy and grace, or how they beat the labels
Blinded By Your Grace
 
When he takes to the stage in Birmingham, Stormzy immediately rouses the crowd to a moshing fury with his energetic, frankly warmongering, performances of two early singles, Wicked Skengman 4 and Scary. Then, abruptly, he changes the mood, requests that the moshers cool off and props himself on a stool for a ballad.
 
anything unexplainable, Stormzy says, he credits to a higher power
His audience, who 30 seconds earlier seemed absolutely ready to tear down the venue's concrete pillars, obediently sing along. He's in total control, through a few more bangers, including the name-making Shut Up, then a false encore in the form of the ruminative and religious Blinded By Your Grace.
 
Finally, the audience is brought back to a valedictory frenzy with a super-adrenalised rendition of Know Me From. A thousand voices holler in delighted unison. "I f*** shit up, I'm David Moyes!"
 
Stormzy leaves the stage to a ludicrous ovation
Stormzy leaves the stage to a ludicrous ovation. Another nerveless, meticulous performance. It helps the rapper to reach for football analogies and religion when discussing his aptitude for this work. "Put Ronaldo in the cup final," Stormzy says, "and he plays ball. We don't know how he does it; he just does it. Because he's Ronaldo."
 
He says young hopefuls sometimes come up to him and ask for pointers. He tells them, "Bruv, I can write you a whole list of how to rap. You're still not going to be able to do it unless you can do it. It's unexplainable."
 
Me getting that No1 on the last day doesn't add up. I give it to God."
And anything unexplainable, Stormzy says, he credits to a higher power. "If it doesn't add up, I give it to God. Me getting that No1 on the last day doesn't add up. I give it to God."
 
Read more at: 'If it doesn’t add up I give it to God'
 
"to proper protect my wellbeing"
To proper protect my wellbeing
"Doing all sorts of things to keep us afloat"
 
In his dressing room, after the show, Stormzy stands against a wall. The entourage in the room has grown to include friends and family who've made the trip up from London. Moët is uncorked.
 
Tobe had been funding a lot of our shit with his own money
A bottle of Courvoisier is about to be circulated before Stormzy notices that three-quarters of the cognac has been drunk. He berates one of his DJs for not taking better care of it. "You offered it to bare people earlier," the DJ protests. Stormzy lets him off.
 
The rapper doesn't drink when he's on tour
The rapper doesn't drink when he's on tour, in the interests of keeping his twitch Ronaldo instincts intact. Even the bottles of Moët, I'm told, are a special occasion thing. At midnight tonight, Stormzy's manager, Onwuka, turns 26.
 
These old friends are in a mood to reminisce, with Onwuka's birthday looming, and in Birmingham they take a moment to remind each other of the one time they had a professional disagreement.
 
It was back when Stormzy Ltd was first turning a profit. The rapper had asked his manager if he could dip into the funds to buy himself something nice. As Stormzy recalls: "It was the only time I asked Tobe for money. I can't remember what it was for." Onwuka: "It was a vehicle."
 
Stormzy: "He said, 'Nah, we can't.' And suddenly it was clear to me that Tobe had been funding a lot of our shit with his own money. Getting loans out. Doing all sorts of things to keep us afloat, to proper protect my wellbeing."
 
Read more at: 'If it doesn’t add up I give it to God'
 
"Not until all of my friends are millionaires. So nothing's done."
Not until all of my friends are millionaires. So nothing's done
They're both proud of that early restraint and how it has lasted
 
They're both proud of that early restraint and how it has lasted into this period of their success. Stormzy says, "You know when you see a day-in-the-life of a rapper [on TV]? And they go to, like, Harrods? And buy a watch? Bro, I'd rather order a Deliveroo in my bed, finish off that zoot that's in the ashtray."
 
As the rapper explains it, "How can I enjoy the luxuries and the glitz and the glamour when I've still got something to do? Because in my head, I can't sit down and say, 'Mandem, we've done it. It's done.' Not until all of my friends are millionaires. So nothing's done."  
 
I'll be in my country home with my dogs
Post-show, his entourage buzz around the dressing room, stepping around Stormzy's discarded towels, snacking on the complimentary Haribo - millionaires, unknowingly, in the making. What happens to the rapper, I wonder, once he's made his friends rich? Once he's said all he wants to say? Stormzy is insistent. "The day I'm stopping, f***ing hell, I'm stopping. I'm f***ing it all off. I'm going bed. I'll be in my country home with my dogs and I'm not leaving that house for any purposes, not for promo, not for music, nothing. I'm having," he says, picturing it, "a zoot. I'm chilling."
 
Read more at: 'If it doesn’t add up I give it to God'
 
iconversations engaging industry moguls
STEM oriented enterprise architecture business and data analysis methodologies to engage industry moguls in Social Media @iConversations while marketing Hair Salons and Barbershops    
 
who we are
Technology Savvy Social Media engaging Business Moguls in
"Real-Time" marketing Hair Salons and Barbershops
 
iconversations
is savvy social media marketing using Enterprise Architecture business and data analysis methodologies to engage industry moguls around the globe from all business sectors to market
hair salons
barbershops

Hair Salons and Barbershops are an integral fabric within American culture and are of major interest to all communities within the country. Black Hair Salons and Black Barbershop uses the following social media venues to market client business profiles.
 
blackhairsalons.TWITTER
blackbarbershop.twitter
blackhairsalons.instagram
ihairsalons.twitter
salonsaturday.twitter
 
what we do
Black Hair Salons and Black Barbershop in association with iConversations Social Media engages business industries including Hair and Beauty, Entertainment, National News Media, Food and Fitness Industries, Professional Athletes, Celebrity Chefs, Political Representatives, plus more, to market Hair Salons and Barbershops.
 
how we accomplish
iConversations engages social media using customer relationship management best practices, and savvy marketing techniques incorporated with humor and wit to market. During this process Hair Salons and Barbershop business profiles are marketed using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.
 
 
conversations social media
"A lifestyle everyone should have access to."
 
  • iconversations parterned with iSalons is savvy interactive online social media consulting on the "cutting edge" of information technology engaging industry moguls around the globe in "Real-Time" showcasing all business industry sectors.
  •  isalons iconversations engages industry moguls online interactively in conversations within the Entertainment Industry, Hair and Beauty business, National News Media, Professional Athletes through sports media, Celebrity Chefs who engage audiences with mouth watering cuisine.
  • iConversations Clients' business products and services are showcased to a very upscale diverse demographics of quality social media colleagues, thus giving your business high visibility locally, regionally, and around the globe.
  • iConversations has cultivated quality social media relationships engaging upscale diverse collaborative communities and businesses around the globe in "Real-Time".
  • Conversations values family, relationships, and her social media colleagues. We sincerely value people and our relationships with them first.