stormzy speaks out about depression
As his album looks set to reach No.1, Big Mike opens up to Channel 4.
Mental health is one of the biggest conversations we need right now. And speaking out is just the start. We need all the champions we can get, from wherever they might come. Whether that's Adwoa Aboah getting gurls talking, following her own battles with depression and drug addiction, or Kid Cudi — who last year opened up to Facebook about his own mental health struggles. All visibility is good and vital. Especially as last week, we were rocked by the news that another shining talent like Ren Hang took his life.
In 2017, the British government does nowhere near enough to support, help, diagnose, and deal with mental health problems — especially for youth. Enter Stormzy. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more influential voice for the nation's youth of today, so it's vital that he's using that voice to speak out about depression. In an interview on Channel 4 yesterday, the i-D cover star shared how his views on mental illness have changed over the years. "I always saw myself as a strong person who just deals with life," he told presenter Jasmine Dotiwala, referencing the time a friend of his was depressed, and then when he began to suffer from the illness himself. "That was a world that was so alien to me. I just used to think, you get up and march on. So for me, I felt that if I needed to address that, what I was going through." Depression made him realize, he said, "how fragile we are as humans. In the most beautiful way possible."
Realizing it's ok to speak out is often the first step for those seeking treatment. Which, especially if you're as smiley as Big Mike, is not often easy. As he touched on himself. "I feel like I always come across confidently and happy. I just present myself in a positive way so I can spread that. People will be looking at and thinking I don't go through nothing, so for me to let people know that, no, I do. I felt it's important for me to let people know that."
His debut album, Gang Signs & Prayer, currently at No. 2 in the British charts, also touched on mental health issues in its lyrics. In between the bravado, bragging, and clapbacks, he opened his heart to us — on tracks like "Lay Me Bare," for example. "Cos' there's still some days I find it hard / Smoke my spliff and write my bars / I know they see me climbing charts / But plaques won't help me find my heart / Yo God, what's good? I need you bad / Devil's in my ear I need you back / Got scars in my soul I've been attacked / Even when I'm low I seem relaxed / But this year's been mad I lost my way / They think I went ghost to drop my tape / Not knowing that I fell and lost my faith / Like Satan please no, not today / So fuck this shit this ain't a joke / Just to get away I take a toke / I took this pain and made a boat / Lord knows how the fuck it's staying afloat / Last year I cried too many times / Weren't for Flipz and weren't for Rhymz / Weren't for Rachel, weren't for Kelly / Man them people saved my life."
On "First Things First," where he spoke about the pressure of fame: "Mad, mad demons in my thoughts / Young Stormz wasn't ready for the limelight (he wasn't ready) / Took a little break from the game, started praying / Man, I had to get my mind right (started praying)."
So out buy, stream, (but don't steal) Gang Signs & Prayer, and help get it to No. 1 because, as Stormzy pointed out on Twitter the other day, "the gap between #GSAP and No. 2 is tighter than the cornrows I had in year 8 so anything you can do to support in seriously appreciated."
Watch the full interview below.
Text Francesca Dunn