The cover artwork for his upcoming album Heavy Is The Head is now a part of the gallery’s extensive collection.
Stormzy has had one hell of a year, by anybody’s standards.
2019 saw him perform a historic headline set at Glastonbury, collaborate with Ed Sheeran, and call out Conservative MP Rees-Mogg for his ridiculously offensive remarks about the Grenfell fire victims. One way or another, Stormzy was a major player in British culture this year, and remains the most prolific grime artist in the UK.
To add to that already impressive list of achievements for the year, Stormzy now has a spot in the National Portrait Gallery. The cover artwork for his latest record Heavy Is The Head is currently on display alongside multiple portraits of iconic Victorian figures, and shows Stormzy staring down at the Banksy-designed stab-proof vest that he wore during his Glastonbury set. Gallery director Nicholas Cullinan hopes to acquire the image permanently, and describes it as a ‘contemporary intervention within our historic collection’.
It’s a huge moment for the UK’s grime and rap scenes, both of which have struggled to crack the mainstream until recently. Stormzy has been a major player in this broadening of the genre’s audience, and he’s also been involved in multiple initiatives to better the lives of British minorities and young people.
His inclusion in the National Portrait Gallery is an acknowledgement of his hard-earned place in the British zeitgeist. All this and his second album hasn’t even been released yet. Most impressive.