The VICEChannels

      music Hattie Collins 8 March 2016

      what stormzy taught us at oxford university last night

      The grimes star speaks out about sexism, snapchat, beef and the n-word at the Oxford Union.

      what stormzy taught us at oxford university last night what stormzy taught us at oxford university last night what stormzy taught us at oxford university last night

      i-D hit the road with Stormzy yesterday to hear him talk at the Oxford Guild Society. Past speakers include the Dalai Lama, Stephen Hawking and Kanye West. So, you know, no big deal. Big Mike, accompanied by his mum, was grilled by the students on everything from sexism and crime within grime, his Ghanaian heritage, his thoughts on Pablo and how he got the nickname 'Stiff Chocolate'. Here are just a few things we learnt after spending the day in the company of the South London MC…

      Where Stormzy goes, Mumzy follows...
      Stormzy bought his mum - Abigail Owuo (known for awesome online moments such as Know Me From) - with him to Oxford. "I'm very proud," Abigail told us before the talk started. "He was always a clever child, I always knew he'd get somewhere in life."

      His mum calls him Stormzy...
      "Yes, I call him Stormzy. Sometimes Michael, sometimes Stormzy. Sometimes he phones me and I say 'Hello Stormzy" and he says "Allow it mummy." Abigail, in case there was any doubt, is a wonderful woman.

      He's incredibly gracious...
      Before the talk, Stormzy had dinner at Chequers (Oxford's oldest pub) with the President of the Union, George Riley, some of its committee and a handful of students. (He ordered a burger, chips and a coke fyi). On the way to the talk, the students somehow talked him into doing an Oxford University remix of Shut Up outside the Radcliffe Camera - with them on BV's. It was hands down the poshest version we've ever seen, but Stormzy was surprisingly game about the whole thing. "I mean, why would I not do something that might make someone's day," he reasoned after. "That's nothing for me to do." He picked up the thought later on in his talk, when asked about fame. "I'd be embarrassed to change [because of fame]. Fame is a deep subject it's not real. It's this whole facade. Also I'm not 'famous', but [if we're talking in terms of popularity], I can go online and tweet a video and get love, but these things can't shape you. Me being me is what got me here. The most important thing is to remain a good person, a good human."

      His iPhone 6 screensaver is Amy Winehouse...
      "Yeah, that's my G. I saw the film," he revealed over dinner in the pub with his mum. "It got me flipping angry. I hated it. I got so angry at all of them. [The film and Amy's story] struck a chord with me in the sense that, as a creative, it looks like on the outside, that it's very 'go studio, make a hit, go and perform it around the world, champagne in the club, loads of girls'. But the graft and the emotional strain of being a musician is very hard. No one ever sees that part. So I understand what happened, in a sense, to Amy. It's so fucking sad."

      He answered every question the students flung at him, including how he got the name Stiff Chocolate…
      "Oi my mum's here you know! Nah. I'm just a proper don," he laughed. "As soon as I think of these things, certain words or phrases pop into my head and I just think, 'Yeah, I'll run with it for a bit'. But Stiff Chocolate…" - glance to Abigail - "Next question!"

      And his thoughts on Chip vs Yungen...
      "Oxford University, bruv, you lot," he laughed when asked about the beef. "It's gone global. Look, I don't get involved. They're both my friends. It doesn't affect who I oollob with; I would make tunes with both of them tomorrow. It's fun, it's entertainment, it's a good lyrical war."

      Except the one about whether it's true that Chip really does have a Smart car...
      "Next question!"

      Stormzy revised his opinion on the Brits slightly...
      When the Brits nominations came out, Stormzy was one of the MCs to be outspoken about the lack of diversity and representation. He even dropped a little freestyle about it. He has, however, come to change his mind, slightly. "After [that freestyle], I spoke to Ged Doherty, the chairman of the Brits who's a very, very nice guy. I sat down with him and we had a very positive talk and a constructive talk. He showed me the figures of the voting panel, and the eligibility, and we spoke and I gave him a few ideas how they could be more in touch. Cos I think that's more what it was. I'm not too sure how much of a race issue it was, or a diversity issue it was, after speaking to him personally. I think it's more a discussion about the voting panel. The majority of the panel is middle aged white men. And that's cool, but if you have 1000 middle aged white men voting on the state of UK music, they might not know about little Stormzy from south London screaming 'Shut Up' in the park. So we discussed that… I still think the Brits needs to remains the pinnacle of British music but there also needs to be that in-touchness that it didn't have this year. Artists like Skepta and Krept and Konan are doing very credible things in terms of record sales and influence and street culture. In terms of what the youth of the UK are listening to today, it wasn't well represented. But also, in terms of what the youth are listening to today, Little Mix and James Bay, they do represent the UK as well. Little Mix will sell out the 02 Arena, thousands of 16 year olds go to their shows, so they do represent a part of British youth culture and British music. But there's also thousands of kids lining up outside the Brixton Academy to see Skepta and JME. I think the right people need to be acknowledged to show that this is Britain and Britain isn't just One Direction, Little Mix and James Bay. There is Skepta, and Krept and Konan.That said, I don't think it's an opportunity for my man on, flippin', Linkup TV with 5000 views, he can't be thinking he should win a Brit! There is a fine line. Hopefully next year the gap will be bridged a little. But it is very difficult, [Having spoken to Ged] I saw that the pressures of an awards show is crazy, it's a difficult job. I wouldn't want to be him!"

      He admits he can be sexist and shouldn't be...
      A young woman in the audience asked Stormzy's thoughts on the sometimes problematic misogynist lyrics found in rap. "I'm sure a lot of MCs are derogatory towards females but we're not as bad as the Americans," he began. "Me personally, I say the odd b-word or slut or sket - this sounds so bad man now I'm saying it. I don't know enough to give a proper comment cos I don't want to say 'we're not that bad' when we probably are. But, yeah, MCs stop cussing girls! I'll have a word with the fellow grime massive," he promised.

      And that rappers - or certainly himself - should stop using the N-Word...
      "It's horrible. It's disgusting," he said immediately when asked about its usage within rap and grime. "But I'm the worst. It's not cool. I'm trying to stop. I'm saying that like I'm a smoker quitting cigerettes! It's not cool and I will stop. It's very lazy of us as well. You know the worst thing, it's become like, just, good to use in a lyric, because it flows well. It's a filler word. That sounds so horrible. The word is way too horrible to be used in that way."

      But also that while rap and grime can be ugly, it sometimes needs to be...
      "Punk, hip-hop, grime… all these genres that come from frustration and rebellion, you can't expect guys from tough violent areas to start rapping about peace and love. You're going to have the people who glorify the violence and the people who speak about it from the angle that they grew up around it and chose a different route. For example, Kano's new album is from a new perspective. You're going to have commentators. And you do need both. You do need someone to tell you about the guns and the robbery and the violence. But the next person who will give you the other side of the story. You do need both sides of the coin to commentate on both sides of the culture."

      There's an album on the way and of course a role in Brotherhood, the final part of Noel Clarke's Kidulthood trilogy...
      When asked about his role in the Brotherhood, Big Mike admitted it hadn't come easily. "Acting is very difficult man, it's not as easy as it looks. It's hard man. My role in the film, I'm mean. My character in the film is what I look like. Do you get what I mean? I get it all the time when people meet me in person. 'Oh you're so much cooler than I thought you would be.' Like, what did you think I was going to be? I think it's just the muscle and the mean mug! But yeah it's a good film. It's the perfect end to the series. Just when you think the last one ended on a blunt note... The full title is Brotherhood: The End and that's exactly what it is. It's got its funny bits. It represents UK culture and it represents London culture more than anything. It's a good watch, so go and see it. But don't laugh at my acting! The whole experience made me respect actors so much more. I didn't take it that seriously until I was around other actors, pacing around learning their lines. I was sitting there like 'Oh, I just came for the ride'! I respect actors a whole lot more after that

      He's a fan of Pablo and, like us all, is waiting on that Channel Orange follow-up...
      One student wondered what music Stormzy was listening to and whether he was a Kanye fan. "I have listened to Life of Pablo and it's a very, very sick album. Ultra Light Beams is my riddim. It touches my souls. But I'm weird. I listen to a lot of stuff people might not expect. Raleigh Ritchie. JP Cooper. Kwabs. Adele. I really appreciate soul singers. Like everyone else, I'm waiting for the new Frank Ocean.

      Stormzy is really, really awesome...
      Funny, thoughtful, generous with his time - the 30 minute talk over running by 40 minutes - #Merky is a really a very impressive person. And that there is much, much more in store for this 22 year old. "My faith in God that tells me it can't just be the Stormzy show. Anyone who is considered to be one of the greats, their joinery is never just about them. If you look at history, it's people who have stood for something. As my platform gets bigger, I want to use my poisiont more and more. That's what I'm meant to do. As me, Michael, Abigail's son, me with my family and friends. My journey. My journey from the get go has always been bigger than myself. I don't want to get too spiritual but I'm on a destiny one. For me to grow I have to help other people. I feel like I've not even got into my stride yet."

      @Stormzy

      Connect to i-D’s world! Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

      Topics:music, news, stormzy, oxford union, oxford university, talk

      comments powered by Disqus

      Today on i-D

      Load More

      featured on i-D

      More Features