Stormzy has said his new album This Is What I Mean has finally allowed him the artistic freedom to “spread his wings and just fly”.
he UK grime star, 29, released his highly anticipated third studio album on Friday, with critics and fans praising the genre-spanning 12-track offering.
Speaking at a launch event for the record in central London, the Croydon-born rapper discussed the challenges in making the record, including how it nearly did not meet its release date, and how it liberated him.
Addressing a room full of his team and fans, he admitted that he had been “extremely heavy” throughout his whole career but that he has been fighting for his freedom as an artist, which he feels he has finally achieved with this record.
“I think this album, for me, I found my freedom”, he said.
“I’ve always said this album, god willing, it allows me to spread my wings and just fly. That was a big thing for me, achieving my freedom.”
Reflecting on the process of creating it, he added: “I think I just embraced the fact that I’m still growing as a man, as an artist. I think this whole process, I feel like everything in my life led up to getting here.”
Among the number of experiences in his life which he feels have influenced the record he cited the impact of his past relationships, coming off social media and the pandemic.
He said that his faith in God had led him through these times and the process of creating the album to a point where he no longer feels heavy on a release day.
“I’m feeling so grateful and I’m feeling so blessed. The Heavy Is The Head 2019 Stormzy was a heavy guy and I’m here and I’m light and I’m joyful and I’ve made something that I’ve never been more proud of and it just gave me so much more faith in God.”
The rapper also revealed that with this freedom, he nearly delayed the release date two weeks ago as there were certain elements he was not still completely happy with until the last minute.
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He praised his team for allowing him this control and for painstakingly working and reworking on components on each song until it felt right with him, adding: “I deserve to feel good about my music before it comes out, I owe that to myself.
“I want to listen to it and it feels good in my spirit.”
The rapper emphasised throughout the launch event how he was “music obsessed” and that the record had been strongly guided by what resonated with his sprint and not what might be deemed commercially successful.
He said: “Sometimes I feel like the size of who I became kind of tainted people’s understanding of who I am and what I do.
“Any music that man has made and put out is because man heard and it just hit my soul, whether that’s a Own It or a Vossi Bop or a Big For Your Boots, its because man heard it and said ‘Yeahh’.
“There’s songs that are successful in this world and I knew they were going to be successful and I was meant to be on them but they didn’t resonate with in my spirit.”
The new record, which has been produced by Prgrshn, also features vocal appearances from a number of artists including Sampha, Jacob Collier and Debbie.
The rapper explained that the journey of selecting the featured artists was also complicated, teasing that he could not reveal the full story as he feels the drama of it would dominate headlines for the next week.
However, he said that he feels “everything worked out for the greater good and everyone who’s on the album was meant to be on the album and they were they were chosen with love and with the spirit of God”.
The rapper spoke at the This Is What I Mean House event created in collaboration between him and and Amazon Music’s +44 to celebrate the album’s release.
Located on London’s Regent Street from November 25 to 27, the space features merchandise, immersive listening experiences, photography and will host performances.
The album release was preceded by tracks Hide & Seek, Firebabe and Mel Made Me Do It, with the latter being accompanied by a 10-minute, cameo-packed music video featuring Louis Theroux, Usain Bolt and Jose Mourinho.
This Is What I Mean comes three years after his 2019 album Heavy Is The Head, which became a UK number one.
Originally from south London, Stormzy first rose to fame with his song Shut Up, which was released as a freestyle and posted on YouTube.
His 2017 debut album, Gang Signs And Prayer, was the first grime album to reach number one in the UK and was named album of the year at the 2018 Brit Awards.
December 2020 saw him sign with influential hip hop record label Def Jam after leaving Atlantic Records, joining some of the biggest names in rap music, including Kanye West, Nas, Pusha T and Public Enemy.