What are Stormzy and Wiley beefing about exactly?

The inter-generational grime feud runs deep.

by Jenna Mahale
09 January 2020, 7:04pm

Well, would you believe that this entire thing kicked off because of Ed Sheeran? It’s not quite the truth, but what the singer-songwriter currently represents is tied to an identity crisis that’s been bubbling over for several years in the British music scene. This week, it might just have inspired some of the most brutal diss tracks in recent history, courtesy of i-D coverstar Stormzy and Wiley aka the godfather of grime.

Naturally, it all began on social media. In response to a fan asking Wiley when he was going to hit back at a so-called diss by Jaykae on his 2019 track “SHUSH”, Wiley cited Jaykae’s collaboration with Ed Sheeran as a means of explaining his inferiority, and justifying a non-response.

Failing to provoke either Jaykae or Ed Sheeran (who, ironically, Wiley actually collaborated with back in 2011 when he featured on Ed’s first mixtape), Wiley decided to drag Stormzy into the conversation. The MCs had previously argued via Instagram last summer about Ed Sheeran dipping a toe back into the grime scene that helped launch his career, with Wiley commenting that he was tired of popular artists using the genre “to look good for two minutes”, and Stormzy refuting his concerns. “No Wiley,” he wrote, defending Ed’s loyalty to grime, “you know Ed been doing this from early, been a real one from early, can’t question that”.

To a grime purist like Wiley, mainstream pop collaborations are clearly seen as a betrayal to the genre. Stormzy, as one of the biggest voices to come out of the scene, has undeniably brought newer and larger audiences to grime, but in doing so, has fundamentally changed its sound -- a sound that old-school rappers like Wiley pioneered. So, it’s messy.

Back to January 2020: the Twitter beef quickly devolved into Wiley telling Stormzy to suck his mum, and Stormzy calling Wiley everything from “dinosaur” to “crackhead”. Then the diss tracks began.

On 5 January, Wiley came out with “Eediyat Skengman”, alleging that Stormzy “never cared about grime” and that, like Ed Sheeran, he “just used it” and turned it into something “watered down”. It was a fairly tame diss, with Wiley taking somewhat of a high ground by only making a passing reference to Stormzy’s ex-girlfriend Maya Jama: “I ain't gonna chat any shit about Maya, she's cool / So we ain't gonna do the whole Maya ting."

Just a day later, Stormzy dropped the very impressive “Disappointed”. On it, he flexed his success as an artist and threatened to split Wiley’s lip, all the while brandishing both a mug of tea and a blunt. The duality of man. Wiley then released “Eediyat Skengman 2” -- attempting to match the quality of Stormzy's video production -- and, well, things took a turn for the worse.

"If I see your mum at Croydon market, I'm going to rip that weave off her head," spat Wiley over a fizzing, energetic beat. It was clear that a line had been crossed. Stormzy hit back with “Still Disappointed”, which is, by all accounts, a banger. Unfortunately though, it does refer to Wiley’s sister as a “little bitch” and his mother a “whore” before further criticising not only Wiley but all the men in his family. “Let’s go Cyprus and go free your mumzy,” he suggests, accusing Wiley of shipping his mother off abroad due to his inability to protect her from violence in London. The very definition of shots fired.

As it stands, Wiley’s half-brother Cadell is the latest person to enter the fray. Despite only being mentioned in passing in “Disappointed”, the rapper does have a history with Stormzy, having penned several diss tracks directed at him before. He’s even rumoured to be the subject of Stormzy’s break-out single, “Shut Up”.

It’s clear that the bad blood between these artists runs deep, and that there are very real, intergenerational tensions beneath all the bluster and bravado. Grime, as it thrives in the mainstream, is rapidly evolving; and its forefathers are clearly unhappy about that. Or maybe -- just maybe -- the whole thing was orchestrated by Wiley to promote the long-awaited album he just announced, while simultaneously launching Cadell’s career?