Making it as a music star takes more than talent. Ask any A&R and they’ll tell you, the success of any artist is dependent on the appeal of their brand. That, in fact, is often more important than talent itself. Fortunately for him and us, Stormzy has both.
We already know about Stormzy’s formidable skill as an MC, but it is away from the microphone that he has gained much of his success. Big Mike is not the only rapper to impress with his Fire in the Booth, yet in a few unique ways, he has utilized the channels available to him to reach unchartered heights for a UK MC.
The Stormzy charm
The first lucrative weapon in Stormzy’s arsenal is his personality. Stormzy is the only MC as comfortable with the merk-yout-brudda linguistics of grime as he is with calling himself the banter king, and has an easy-going demeanour that is not always common amongst rappers. First and foremost, this means people from various walks of life warm to him. It also means he is the go-to guy for an Adidas-sponsored sit down with David Beckham or a Lad Bible rap-off with Kevin Hart. People like him, so brands like him, so people like him more. Stormzy also uses his own platform to flaunt his personality – the bussin’-jokes-with-mates introductions to his videos being a case in point. These factors combined mean Stormzy is loved as much by Essex Magalufers as he is by grime’s core urban following.
Social Media Stormz
On top of that, no-one does social media like Stormzy. If he’s the banter king, he’s like the President of the UN or something when it comes to Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. Just by following him, you are on the guest list for a Nando’s link-up, a last-minute video shoot or a birthday trip to Thorpe Park. His interactions are personable and inclusive – often addressing fans as “My Gs” and his achievements as theirs – making followers feel like a part of his movement. That’s why when David Cameron stepped down there was a Twitter campaign for him to be Prime Minister, and why when he appealed to fans to get a freestyle he made in a park to Christmas number 1, he damn near did it. In many ways, Stormzy has made his fans his friends. In doing so, he’s gained their loyalty in abundance.
Another result of using social media so skilfully is that Stormzy’s fame has a DIY feel to it. This impression is compounded by many of his visuals. The legendary “Know Me From” video featured, amongst other things, Stormzy’s mum rapping alongside him, a budget David Moyes mask and “that awkward moment when 2 cars block up your video shoot.” One of the most entertaining elements of his Wicked Skeng Man Freestyles is the animated reactions of friends, fans and famous faces to his punchlines. These touches feel unpolished and human, in a fun kind of way. All this makes you buy into Stormzy the person as much as the artist.
The Adidas effect
That deal with Adidas helps a little too. After all, it’s a lot easier to go out Santa Clausing trainers to fans when those trainers are free. Furthermore, his association with one of the country’s most loved brands has propelled his status and given his image an aesthetic consistency. A bit like Run DMC, brand Stormz is now synonymous with Adidas’ iconic stripes.
But the corporate deal comes secondary. Stormzy’s story, more than anything, is an independent one, because far more than they love brands, people love people. Companies invest millions to get themselves a bit of personality. Luckily for him, Stormzy has character in abundance and can flaunt it, for free! The key to his success is that he shares his life – jokes, achievements, annoyance and all – with the world, and interacts with fans as people, rather than consumers. In return, he is liked like a friend, rather than a commercial entity. That means that in terms of followers, views, retweets and sales – all the metrics used to measure appreciation – Big Stormz is winning by Usain Bolt margins.
Big Mike’s secret recipe is as simple as it is effective. It all boils down to being himself for the world to see and partake in. Stormzy is just being Stormzy, and everyone’s invited.