Stormzy at number one: Seven things you need to know about the grime artist

By Steven McIntosh
Entertainment reporter

Image source, Official Charts Company
Image caption,
If you bought Stormzy's album he wants to take you out for dinner

Stormzy's Gang Signs & Prayer has just become the UK's first grime album to reach number one.

For much of the week the chart race was too close to call, with Rag'N'Bone Man's Human giving Stormzy a run for his money.

But he clinched the top spot after notching up 69,000 combined sales of his debut album in its opening week.

Tinie Tempah's Disc-Overy is the only other grime-influenced record to have reached the top of the chart, in 2010.

Image source, Steve Barney

"Honestly, I wish I could take every person who bought and streamed the album out with me, have dinner with them, dedicate a whole night to them," Stormzy said after finding out he was number one on the official albums chart.

We're big fans of pizza, Stormz, so we'll see you at the Italian round the corner later.

His ascent to number one was helped a great deal by his own campaigning on social media.

As the week progressed, he started retweeting more and more of his fans who had bought the album on CD - a format which influences the chart more than streaming.

But the album also achieved the most first week streams for a number one in chart history, according to the Official Charts Company.

Here are seven things you need to know about this now record-breaking rapper.

1. He used to work in an oil refinery

Image source, Reuters / Getty

"I was working on an oil refinery in quality assurance," he told the BBC.

"It was quite a niche job, so they had to train me up for 10 months. I was in the office, doing the quality checks. It was a lot of responsibility for the age I was."

But, as it turned out, it wasn't for him.

"The music was picking up, so I had to make the decision - project engineer or musician. I decided to take the music path and here we are."

2. He has made up with the Brit Awards

Image source, Reuters

Last year, Stormzy criticised the Brit Awards for its lack of ethnic minority nominees in his track One Take Freestyle.

It led to the Brits chairman Ged Doherty inviting him to discuss how grime could be better represented at the ceremony.

"We had a very very constructive talk, he showed me the categories of eligibility, I told him how these could be improved," Stormzy said.

In turn, this year's nominations list was much more diverse, with four out of the five nominees for best male not being white.

(In the end, the only white nominee, David Bowie, won in that category. But still, baby steps.)

Stormzy himself was nominated for best breakthrough act this year and performed with Ed Sheeran at the ceremony.

The Brits appearance helped to give him a boost in sales this week - and he wasn't the only one. Emeli Sande and Bruno Mars also saw a huge increase in sales after their performances.

3. Religion plays a big role in his life

Image source, Getty Images

We're used to US musicians regularly referencing God in their music and their awards acceptance speeches.

But it's less common for religion to crop up heavily in the lyrics of UK grime artists.

In Blinded by your Grace Part 2, he sings: "Lord I've been broken / Although I'm not worthy / You fixed me, now I'm blinded by your grace / You came and saved me."

This is maybe a good example of why his album reaches out beyond the usual confines of the genre.

4. He gets recognised in Amsterdam. And at the school gates.

Image source, Getty Images

"The strangest place I've been recognised was actually Amsterdam," he told the BBC.

"I went there with a few of my mates and it wasn't even just the one person, it was a few people going 'Oh, Stormzy's in Amsterdam', and I was thinking, 'No way, you know me out here'."

"I went to pick up my nephew from primary school and one of the teachers there stopped me and said, 'Yeah, my son listens to you'. That's quite an awkward thing. Quite surreal."

5. His album was self-released

Image source, AP

We mentioned earlier that Stormzy took issue with the Brits for its previous lack of diversity, which perhaps speaks to a wider issue within the music industry about the struggle of grime to break through into the mainstream.

So Stormzy took things into his own hands, and released his debut album (the one that's just reached number one) through his own independent label Merky Records.

He's not the first artist to have done this recently - Skepta did the same thing, as did Chance the Rapper in the US.

6. He got six A* GCSEs

Media caption,
Stormzy: "It's a weird story"

Which is pretty impressive.

"My time at school, I was quite smart in school so I got good grades, but I was also a bit of a class clown," he told BBC Breakfast.

"I was playing that fine borderline between getting excluded but the teachers kind of loving me, but I had a great time in school.

As a child, Stormzy was also quite a bookworm - he also told the programme how he used to collect badges from his school library for every book he read over the summer.

7. Believe it or not, Stormzy is not his real name

Image source, Sarah Jeynes

He is actually called Michael Omari.

Also, he calls his mum "Mumsy".

Stormzy and Mumzy. Amazing.

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