British music icon Stormzy joins Tems on the final episode of ‘Leading Vibe Radio’ that aired on Saturday, 11 June on Apple Music 1.
In the interview, Stormzy chats to hosts Tems and Muyiwa in a thoughtful and expansive conversation where he discusses ego, how he navigates fame and maintains a sense of normality, his faith, quitting social media, his flaws and humanity, and more. ‘Leading Vibe Radio’ is hosted by Nigerian singer-songwriter, producer and Apple Music Up Next alum Tems and her co-manager Muyiwa. Please find key quotes from Stormzy's chat below. Please credit Leading Vibe Radio with Tems on Apple Music 1 if you use this information. Listen to the interview in full tomorrow (Saturday 11th June) live for free at 3pm BST or anytime on Apple Music at apple.co/_LeadingVibe.
On ego... There's a Jay-Z lyric, one of my favourite Jay-Z lyrics. It’s on [album] '4:44' and the first song on that album is called 'Kill Jay-Z' where he talks about killing his ego. And on the same album, on ‘Bam', he says, “Sometimes you need your ego, gotta remind these fools”. And I feel like that lyric mad resonates with man, both sides of it. Killing your ego. Mad resonates with me. Also, sometimes you need your ego, because as much as ego is a hindrance, it's a reminder of yourself, of who you are. I think that's important sometimes.
On being accused of selling out… I've broken so free of this. So I give God the glory for that. One of my triggers was always the box I was put in as an artist especially coming from Grime. I’m a Grime MC, I was a Grime MC, I’m not a Grime MC, coming through the route I came through, you're meant to do this, you’re meant to do that, and if I start singing it’s like, ‘Ah, you you're selling out or you’re mainstream or commercial'. I had all those things thrown on my name in terms of ‘sell out’ and ‘going pop’ and all of these things. It always used to trigger me because I always used to think I'm genuinely being the most authentic, honest artist and version of myself. There's never been a time in the studio with my music where I've made a decision that was like, ‘Oh, we're gonna do this to be mainstream or we're gonna do this to sell records or we're gonna do this to blow up there'. Never. But of course the product of my work was causing me to blow up and go mainstream. So people would associate that with me making those decisions actively and that used to trigger me. The reason why it triggered me was probably coming from a vulnerable place. It felt like it's the equivalent of a child thinking, ‘Whatever you accuse me of doing, I'm not even doing that’. I used to have that kind of mentality. I'm just trying to be who I am, the musician I am. So that used to trigger me a bit, but I feel like the past few years, just getting closer to God and self-reflecting and going on a journey of self-discovery and just really like standing in my purpose and really standing in who I am as a man and standing in who I've been ordained to be and standing in my truth and understanding, this is my truth. People are arguing with me about my truth. And because it's my truth, I can stand on it … This is my f***ing truth. Yes, I like to sing. Yes, I love Tems. Yes, I love Frank Ocean. Yes, I also love J Hus and yes, I love Coldplay, and yes, I want sing on that melody and yes, I wanna rap and yes, I wanna do that Grime freestyle … this is my truth.
On quitting social media... I remember when I first came off social media. I had a European tour straight after. I came off social media in February. I had a European tour in like March. And I remember I was doing an arena show in Denmark. I think it was about 15,000 people. We done the show and I came off stage and I remember one of my first feelings was getting the clip of us to put on social media but I didn't have social media. I remember it being a weird feeling. Because that's what I would normally do anytime I've done something great, I'm gonna show everyone. And I remember thinking in that moment, that's ego, that's ego. That's probably validation. In that moment I'd done it, I've done the show ... It was crazy. But I was like, wow, man's in Denmark. We’re doing arenas in Denmark. That was a big lesson for me in terms of what ego is and how you gotta kill ego. I think that was probably my biggest moment of it. Because what is it that I'm trying to gain? Because that happened in real life. You done that. It was a big turning point for me in understanding that there is an ego in man I need to kill because look how blessed we are. That happened, God knows it happened. My people know what happened. What is this final piece that I need for my ego? Maybe with all of us in whatever line of work we do, whether we're artists, whether we're lawyers, whether we're teachers, and we go on our journey and we climb, that ego grows. And I feel like every once in a while we gotta check ourselves.
On how he navigates fame and maintains a sense of normality… I feel like it's a journey. From when my life started becoming the life of an artist, the life of someone in the spotlight. There’s the early stage where you are getting used to it, there's the stage where you're more used to it and I feel like where I'm at now, I'm very focused on reserving my right to be a human. I always say that whoever Stormzy the artist is, the world will drag that to whoever they want that to be or wherever they want that person to be. There's a man in there who needs to remain before the artist. Before I'm any artist or before I'm this person, I'm just a man and I'm always gonna make decisions for the man first. Whereas before, I've always put the artist first and what I've come to learn now is that the artist and the man, they’re one thing. So if I protect the man, the artist gets to exist and he gets to breathe and he gets to be the best version of himself. Another thing that really helps me feel normal is separation from noise. Whether that be noise on the internet, whether that be noise in reality, whether that be noise in events. I'll just make active decisions to not be around noise. Because I feel that noise doesn't allow me to be normal. Because if I consume noise and energy all the time there's something that's not normal about that. So I think there's a degree of separation that's needed. My family makes me feel normal. If you can manage to separate yourself from that in the careers that we're in it'll give you a little bit more clarity, give you a little bit more room to breathe, to think. And that's a big part of how I stay, whatever normal is, in this kind of abnormal journey we're on.
On his flaws and humanity... Man is a human. I’m gonna make a mistake. I'm very flawed. Whatever actors done this or musician done this, it's like, yeah, they're just humans. So I always feel like whatever I can do to always remind myself and stay around environments and people that never allow me to think I'm ever elevating above this human bracket, that’s what I need to do ... Whatever allows me to always understand that I’m just a man. I’ve said it a hundred times. I get road rage. I got a bad temper. Of course I strive to be the best version of myself. So God forbid I'm doing any of that, but I'm a man and I'm flawed and I have my emotions and I go through things and I'm not always the best version of myself I try to be. I just need to reserve that right. We are just humans.