Stormzy: This Is What I Mean review – intimate, bleak soul-baring | stormy

lIt seems fitting that when “Big Michael” – as Stormzy sometimes called himself – came to make an album about heartbreak, inner peace and mature manhood, he wouldn’t do it by half measures. This is what I mean is a bold album about showing vulnerability, continuing the former rapper’s overarching mission to transcend the roles assigned to him. Stormzy can be any kind of artist “if you let it be,” he offers – not least a self-questioning artist who is far more concerned with evolving than with greatness.

Once his hesitant singing voice caused a stir when he first aired on Blinded By Your Grace Pt 2. Now he fills out a number of tracks on this intimate third performance, one that pines loudly for his former love and often looks up to God (Holy Ghost , Please). The atmosphere is downbeat, full of soulful keys; while Stormzy is inward looking and wondering if he can forgive his father for not being in his life, he shares the spotlight with numerous guest vocalists and beat makers. (The fabulous Sampha gets a whole song all to herself.)

However, a handful of harder verses on bouncy beats can’t help but break the deliberate calm: it’s a different kind of soul baring. The title track and My Presidents Are Black confirm that this South Londoner is running “a bigger operation”; he plans to help others transcend as well.

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