Heavy is the Head that wears the Crown

Stormzy at the Brits with his poignant and brutal comments about Grenfell.

I have used this imagery and lyrics in lectures. Stormzy is an amazing artist, a poet and a visual performance artist.


“Like, ‘Yo, Theresa May, where’s that money for Grenfell?

What you thought we just forgot about Grenfell?

You’re criminals and you got the cheek to call us savages

You should do some jail time, you should pay some damages

We should burn your house down and see if you can manage this

MP’s sniff coke, we just smoke a bit of cannabis”.

(Lyrics copyright to Warner/ Chappell Music, Inc).


Stormzy has stated that he felt a social responsibility for speaking up.


Music is a political tool.  Stormzy, in those few bars, highlighted the anger and injustice towards a government that has let down Grenfell survivors and families.


You don’t have to be a Sociologist to know this is about race and class. the amazing Dr Remi Salisbury-Joseph and Dr Laura Connelly write about it here.


Whilst multi-millionaires ignore their responsibility to residents of their cladded- buildings, people were killed by the disregard for human safety over the lure of profit.


The fire at Grenfell killed 72 people. The fight for justice goes on, with 100 survivors and relative taking legal action against 3 firms they blame for the fire.


The first inquiry into the fire has also been delayed.


At Glastonbury, Stormzy was the first Black artist to headline. He is also the second youngest headliner at the festival.


His performance was on fire, with his faith, with his passion for social justice, and with his pure talent.


The racists were out in force, claiming his music glorifies gang violence, that it’s not about race, that he shouldn’t be political. The usual symbolic aligning of black bodies with violence and social decay and danger emerged. Racists are never very imaginative.




Many of the negative comments on my thread and quoting my tweet were predictable. But look what Stormzy has done. He has created a massive social commentary on race and the criminal justice system by wearing the union jack stab-vest and by using The Lammy Report quotes.  He is making 100,000 people at the festival, and millions of onlookers critique the unfair systems of race/ class/ gender.


Stormzy is bringing to life what we criminologists and sociologists bang on about. The critics clearly don’t like gifted black men speaking out about inequalities.


My tweet was not inferring that Stormzy would advocate for more police, but rather, that a society and government that blame BAME youth for knife crime are keen to ignore the deliberate policy of austerity that has created these conditions for de-franchised youth. The savage cuts to the criminal justice system, youth services, education, mental health services. The failed and misguided war on drugs which causes more violence that it solves. And a generation of young people who feel cut off from the mainstream, desperate, angry and abandoned.


There is incredible grassroots work going on: these groups need funding! Communities want the slaughter of their young people to stop.


Stormzy has rightfully used his platform to put the lens on all these inequalities.


And yes, it’s about race. In his new single ‘Crown’ Stormzy says:


“I done a scholarship for the kids, they say its racist

That’s not anti-white, it’s pro-black”.


The man can’t do right for doing wrong. He offers scholarships and gets called racist. This is how the framework of whiteness works. It remains the invisible default position, and anything to address racial inequality is called out as being racist itself.


David Lammy MP, a black man who read Law at Harvard, and has spoken about the social apartheid of our leading universities, is frequently called stupid on twitter and belittled. Racists don’t like proud voices of colour challenging the status quo.


No doubt the same racists would claim 13,000 children being held in detention camps in the US isn’t racist.


They will also say that the disproportionate number of people of colour who die in police custody is also ‘not to do with race’.


Globally there is a savage war against people of colour. If your biggest concern is Stormzy getting a festival crowd to chant ‘F*ck Boris’, then you need to open your eyes and get your priorities in order.


Something the mainstream media has ignored, but I do hope the christian press will pick up, is that Stormzy’s performance was a strong witness. His debut album was called ‘Gang Signs and Prayers’, and his single ‘Blinded By Your Grace Part 2’ is a strong reminder of his faith. 


“We’re going to give God all the glory right now”.


The progressive church is a strong place of resistance, and a place that respects and advocates for minority communities. We only have to look at the role of the black church in the US Civil Rights movement, and the current church movement fighting for the children being killed crossing the Mexico/US border.


I can’t wait to see what Stormzy does next, as a social commentator, an activist, an artist and an inspiring young Christian.


Gemma x