On February 24, UK emcee Stormzy released his debut Gang Signs & Prayer. Today, the project became the first independently-released grime album to top the charts in the UK, selling 69k equivalent units. According to The FADER, the album also broke the UK record for the most first-week streams, a record that previously belonged to Drake's Views.
Stormzy's impact stateside has, thus far, been minimal, but his impact in his home country of England cannot be denied.
Grime, much like hip-hop, is soaked in a bravado that makes discussing topics like mental health unpopular, but now more than ever before, artists are seemingly unafraid to open up to their fans about their struggles with depression and drug use.
Following in the footsteps of Isaiah Rashad, Kid Cudi, Syd and more, Stormzy, in a new interview with Channel 4 News, opened up about his misunderstanding of what it means to be depressed, a personal battle he experienced while recording his new album.
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"I found it so strange, almost a reality check. Basically, I'm not going to lie, for a long time I didn't really understand depression. I didn't get it. It's easy to dismiss. I'll hold my hands up and say, 'I didn't even know how it gets [like that].' When someone says they're depressed, it's like you just think, go to bed, wake up, go to the gym, and it's gone. But for me, it was like a realization of how fragile we are as humans. In the most beautiful way possible. In the sense where, I always saw myself as this strong person who just deals with life. I get on with it. If something gets me low, I pick myself back up. If that happens, we march on. That's always been my philosophy. Even down to the point where one of my closest friends was suffering from it. I used to, like, dismiss him. It wasn't even in a harsh way, but I used to think, 'just be happy, put it together.' And when I went through it, it was like, wow. I felt stuck. I'm actually not this strong person I thought I was—now I am, but you almost realize how it important it is to keep loved ones around you."
Imagine how hard it must be to reveal your inner thoughts with the world through your music and in interviews when, for many, discussing depressed feelings with close family members or friends can be a difficult task. Tack on the stigma attached to depression in the black community and the likelihood of dealing with your problems head on could easily seem like an insurmountable achievement.
At only 23 years old, however, Stormzy appears unafraid and wise beyond his years. His interviews—much like his music—are steeped in a maturity that many of his same-aged recording industry peers don't possess, nor do they reek of the same ignorant, self-absorbed, egomaniacal undertones that continuously poison many of his stateside counterparts.