RELEASED 20TH DECEMBER 2019
Favourite track: Rachael’s Little Brother
There’s attack on this album but also reflection and longing which makes for a collection of fascinating tracks that all tell a story.
Following the release of his very successful tracks ‘Vossi Bop’ and ‘Wiley Flow’, UK rapper Stormzy has released Heavy Is The Head. The album cover art shows a dark green background with Stormzy shirtless looking down at his vest-jacket with the union jack flag on it with “h.i.t.h” text forming the crown in gold writing almost like a hologram. I was looking forward to listening to this and reviewing it properly, especially as he’s given us 16 songs and I was a fan of ‘Vossi Bop’ when it came out – it definitely grew on me and I used to hear it blasted out of cars almost daily, back when I lived in my uni flat so it was sort of my alarm clock at one point.
The first track ‘Big Michael’ opens with a voice note from someone demanding new music from Stormzy. The beat is hard and the dynamics mean it quietens down when some echoed audio comes in and then raises once he raps over it. It has a brass feel to it which works nicely with the royal imagery he’s using it. This track is more about how much he’s achieved compared to the haters. ‘Audacity’ (ft. Headie One) targets the enemy yet again with a HARD beat that comes in alongside a bell chime and more brass accompanied later by a softer melody. ‘Crown’ opens with some softer piano and then more of a song than a rap as he “searches every corner of his mind”, looking over his life and success. An old school Hip-Hop beat comes in with a different style of rapping here. It has more of an American feel than a UK one but the vocal choral in the background works nicely.
Tiana Major9 features on ‘Rainfall’ which opens with a soft minor guitar melody and a UK rap beat. This is another track dedicated to his haters as he states: “let the rain fall on my enemies”. There is a vocal addition mid-track of the famous song by Mary Mary. ‘Rachael’s Little Brother’ I love the introduction to this one with the vocal FX and then a hard beat with a wavey bassline. This one has got more of a story and message to it which makes it very listenable. The song then quietens down and becomes a soft piece with singing romantically to a girl. The next track ‘Handsome’ has a UK beat and chaotic instrumental as he talks about he’s “young, black, fly and handsome” and. ‘Do Better’ has more vocal choral and then a real old 90s Hip-Hop magic noise and slow beat. This one has a real retro feel to it and it’s catchy for sure.
‘Don’t Forget to Breathe’ is a slow and dreamy track as he tells you to “chase your dreams” with beautiful vocal work by Yebba. ‘One Second’ (ft. H.E.R) opens with some great RnB female vocals and then a strong beat with bass and synth warped piano. I like how this album is versatile with a range of styles, artists featuring with him and beats. The guitar at the end is romantic evening guitar and the H.E.R’s vocals work so damn well as she repeats the chorus. I was surprised to see Aitch featured on ‘Pop Boy’ but I was super excited to hear this one. No doubt it will have playfulness which is DOES. The beat here is harder and complex and you have to move to it. Aitch’s verse was, as usual, with character and charm.
‘Own It’ I had heard before as it made the charts. Ed Sheeran and Burna Boy feature on this one and it’s another one where you have to move. It really does have elements of each artist in the instrumentals. Like the beat is very Burna Boy, the instrumentals are Ed Sheeran (the chords and chorus especially) and then the rap is Stormzy. His single ‘Wiley Flow’ opens with distorted violin-sounding notes and then audio which then went into a hard UK beat and a stop-start style which worked well to create the drama and tension for the track. ‘Bronze’ opens with softer guitar and then underlying bass that suddenly rushes into another hard beat. He really comes for the rappers now and compares them to him. ‘Superheroes’ has a sweet old school melody in the background that then builds up into a tune. He dedicates the song to young people on their mission and ends iconically with the Tracey Beaker anthem. Interesting choice but it actually works.
‘Lessons’ is another slow track as he talks about how this girl “taught him love” and how he doesn’t blame her. He realises how much he hurt her and disrespected her which I guess why this album is a lot about reflection too and he asks for forgiveness and how much he regrets it. The final track is the very famous ‘Vossi Bop’ which was played so much last year but it was a very catchy tune and nearly everyone agreed on this one.
This album is a good one to have on when you’re travelling as it’s varied and you can focus on it properly because it’s worth it.