[“][Y]ou can tell they think I’m not supposed to be here.” Michael Omari, better known as Stormzy, and I are having lunch in an Italian restaurant; he’s answering my question about what his neighbours think that he does for a living. He’s referring to his house in Fulham, where he has recently moved, and for Stormzy, it’s just par for the course. “I’m gonna live where I live,” he shrugs. “I’m gonna have my hood up, wear all black and I’m gonna be in a first class lounge, or in this mad restaurant, or in this posh hotel and be like, ‘Oh, you didn’t think young black people could be here?’” As if to prove his point, within a few days of this conversation, his face is plastered across the front pages, after the MET police kick down his door, mistaking him for a burglar in his own house – the details of which he tweeted to his 551k followers.
He lists more examples of everyday racism with animated stoicism. “I remember when I went to buy my manager a Rolex for his birthday,” he says. “Usually when you walk in these high-end places, they’ll offer you a drink, take your coat, offer you a seat. We didn’t get none of that. I asked, he told me the price, and I did it like, ‘Oh, you didn’t think young black men are supposed to have this money, did you?’”
The memory is delivered with a smile, and as he gets glances from nearby white-haired diners around us, it’s clear that taking ownership by becoming more comfortable with his visibility is all part of Stormzy’s ascent to greatness. One of the biggest of grime’s new world order, Stormzy has become the figurehead for a new generation of grime MCs. He’s currently enjoying a Top 10 single, a sold-out tour, and his debut album, Gang Signs and Prayer, has just been released to rave reviews.