stormzy: “i love a cold tracksuit and i love my people”
We spoke to Stormzy at the 800 student-strong launch party of his new tracksuit collaboration with Adidas.
Image courtesy Adidas Originals
It’s been almost two years since Stormzy released his landmark, Brit award-winning debut album, Gang Signs & Prayer. The first grime album to reach number one in the UK charts, it won widespread acclaim for its perfect distillation of the sound tearing through the streets of London. More than just an album, it was a moment in time for the genre and British music in general, and cemented Michael Omari's status as one of the most incendiary young artists of his generation.
Since then, the soon-to-be Glastonbury headliner has jumped on a couple of tracks, but mostly been focused on more altruistic matters. Back in June, he announced a partnership with Penguin Random House on his own imprint, #Merky Books -- with a focus on discovering young writers and giving them the opportunity to be published. In August, he pledged to financially support four black students attending Britain’s most elite universities. But not content with just that, last week the south Londoner marked the launch of his new tracksuit collection with Adidas Sport not with prosecco and canapés, but instead by putting his native city’s creative students front and centre. After spending the day talking at four different colleges, he invited over 800 of the students to the a launch party at a leisure centre off Edgware Road.
“You just saying that yeah, I didn't clock. That sounds like I'm on a fucking educational mission,” he says in response to idea that education might be his main focus right now, shortly before the event itself kicked off. “I didn't even clock! But yeah I got a fucking book publishing, scholarships, I'm going to school. That was never my intention. I thought, I think it'd be sick if some black kids could get a scholarship to an elite university, and I think it'd be sick if man could publish some books, you know? I've never thought of it like that until now.”
Entitled Adidas SPRT, the collection is the first in a series of ongoing projects between himself and Adidas Originals, celebrating the youth culture of south London. “My thing is, I love a cold tracksuit and I love my people. What better way to launch it? Getting in a room with my people, with my community, people who this tracksuit is for... I was never going to do some London Fashion Week thing,” he says, visibly excited about the event soon to unfold. “It's even a bit drastic, a bit corny for me to say it's for my community. It's just for man, and because it's for man, that means it's for everyone.”
The event itself saw performances from different London acts -- Singing Soul Sirens Gospel Choir, The Chineke Orchestra, a dance act curated by Jukebox Collective Agency and a dramatic performance directed by Tristan Fynn-Aidenu -- culminating in a performance by Stormzy of the collection’s accompanying track.
As a man at the centre of the musical revolution taking place in London, it means a lot to see him ensure the kids following in his footsteps have the confidence and empowerment to pursue their dreams. “I look around and I say bruv, I'm proud to be part of this. It's like the Avengers; you've got flipping Krept and Konan, Giggs, Dave, J Hus, Mo Stack, Not3s, Unknown T and the drill guys, and Loski, it's like, wow, this is an eclectic variety of musicians and I'm a part of this. I'm one of these Avengers. When people look back on it, thank god I'm gonna be a part of this incredible time.”
Recognising that it can take more than just natural talent, his biggest aim with the work he’s been doing is to ensure everyone gets a shot at making it. “But, you know, I just found out what a middle eight was the other day. As much as I'm a songwriter, bruv I didn't know what a middle eight was, I didn't what a pre-hook was,” he explains earnestly. “If the kid's a good songwriter, let's help them be a songwriter instead of shooting him down because he doesn't know how to do algebra.”
The collection itself, simple but sharp, has all the hallmarks of Stormzy's style. “I've always said... fashion for me -- not even fashion -- just putting on clothes for me is a very simple thing. I'm a simple man, these days they call it dripping, I ain't got none of that. I ain't got no drip and all of that. But what I do know, is that from the age of 10, I've always loved a cold tracksuit.”
The SPRT collection is available now at adidas.co.uk/stormzy and select retailers.