Winning or losing in music is all about having the right people in the right roles working as part of a team to execute a plan. Being the great artist he is Stormzy understands that his role on the team is to focus on the music first. The secret to his success is not only in creating great music, but by creating memorable moments we can all be part of. On Wednesday 1st February 2017 following a long hiatus Stormzy returned to social media with a bang, grabbing our attention with a call for his young black kings to “rise up”. We then saw obscure messages being projected around London simply saying #GSAP. No one had a clue what the four lettered acronym meant but we were about to be blown away by the marketing campaign that followed.
Music fans were already gassed that Stormzy had been nominated for a BRIT Award for BRITISH BREAKTHROUGH ACT, but something equally as exciting was about to happen. Remember when Stormzy told us “I want it to be the biggest warning shot to the industry. We are coming. We’re coming with dutty freestyles, with menacing themes, and horrible language over merky beats and guess what? You have to play it!” Well, he did it. The lead single from his debut album entered the singles chart at number 8. The artwork for the album and Big for Your Boots looked very much like a ‘gangsta’ version of the last supper. Word was out that the album was called Gang Signs & Prayer, however Stormzy is by no means a gangster, a point his neighbours failed to spot when reporting him as being a burglar at his Chelsea home. The mainstream coverage following the incident in which the police destroyed his front door to enter the property demonstrated what a household name Stormzy is along with his ability to use every situation to his advantage.
In a move that proved he was coming more ‘gansta’ than ever Stormzy made the unexpected announcement that he was to launch his own record label, #Merky, a phrase he uses to describe his unique style. Presales for Gang Signs & Prayer has seen the album hit the top position on iTunes in the UK and Ghana, (the country of his parent’s descent), putting him on course to enter the official album charts at number 1 this Friday. A number 1 album from an independent artist on his own label will take the South London artist to mogul status. In a recent interview Stormzy told The Guardian, “I want to be the best artist in the UK. That takes my competitors from 20 people to 100 people, because now they’re indie bands, female singers, soul singers, legends, rock icons that I’m competing with.”
Tickets for his UK tour sold out within minutes of being announced. Stormzy is on top of the world and at the beginning of an epic journey to show the world how beautiful a Grime artist can sound. Legends bring about impactful change through their creative vision. Stormzy has influenced everyone from fans to the establishment. Following a meeting with the chairman of the BRIT Awards the decision was made to include more artists from diverse backgrounds. The backlash from last year’s #britssowhite controversy may well have seen the BRIT Awards go in a new direction, however Stormzy’s honest feedback and suggestions helped to shape wider inclusion for urban artists in the mainstream award show.
Gang Signs & Prayer lays the blueprint for a well thought out marketing campaign with everything from television and radio interviews, newspaper coverage, and let’s not forget the primetime Spotify ad during the Brit Awards with Stormzy looking ‘merky’ dressed all in black and removing his balaclava to the backdrop of the hard driving Big For Your Boots single. With such a high profile mainstream presence you could be forgiven for thinking this was the workings of a PR guru with decades of experience, but no Stormzy is still an independent artist working solely with a young team of close friends!
Without winning a BRIT Award Stormzy came away the big winner of the night with a surprise performance with Ed Sheeran of the Shape of You (remix),. The original song has been at number one for seven weeks and looks set to remain there with this refreshing remix. The song went on sale at midnight on February 24th, at the same time as Gang Signs & Prayer. This has probably been the most anticipated album of the recent time and was rightfully released to critical acclaim. The album is an eclectic body of work with a blend of urban textures and shades taking the listener through a range of emotions, laced with hard hitting flows from Stormzy with some surprising guests. Gang Signs & Prayer has been catapulted to instant classic status and will undoubtedly be a timeless body of work. For me this marks a moment as impactful as Notorious B.I.G – Ready To Die. A monumental body of work that will undoubtedly change everything that comes after it forever.
The album launch was celebrated with a series of free pop up shows in partnership with Red Bull. The first impromptu show was in Camden, then Piccadilly, and the biggest of all was at Boxpark in Stormzy’s home town, Croydon. The night ended on a high with a star studded after party in East London. Since its release every song from Gang Signs & Prayer has entered the top 50 spotify chart, and with endorsement from Adele, one of the world’s biggest artists, and a whole host of other celebrities this album will be around for a long time to come. Stormzy’s marketing campaign doesn’t look set to end any time soon, and with the release of First Thing’s First, the first visuals since the album dropped, the excitement has just turned up to a whole new level.
Make great music
Create memorable moments
Reach a wider audience