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Stormzy’s now in the National Portrait Gallery

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.

Why is Stormzy’s portrait a big deal?

Stormzy has had a huge part in raising the profile of UK grime on the world stage. Taking inspiration from artists such as Wiley, Skepta, and Dizzie Rascal, his rapid-fire wordplay, engaging personality, and undeniable charm has allowed the genre to become more widely accepted by audiences that have historically been dismissive.

He’s used his success to better the careers of his contemporaries, too. During his Glastonbury set he took time to shout out over British artists – past and present – who are making moves across the industry. Stormzy has become the face of a fiercely creative section of British youth culture, one that is now acknowledged by even the most prestigious artistic establishments.

Grime has come a long way – and the industry is all the better for it.

What’s next for Stormzy?

His second album Heavy Is The Head is set to drop on the 13th December 2019, and he’s also just announced a 55-date world tour that kicks off in February. 13 dates are included for the UK, and he’ll be hitting up Europe, Asia, Australasia, North America, and Africa.

I’m not sure if it’s possible to even top the Glastonbury performance from this summer, but I’m predicting that Stormzy will probably be taking up some headline slots at major festivals around the world come next summer.

All three of the singles from his upcoming project have been bangers, too. Vossi Bop is a contender for the best song from Stormzy to date, and his latest R&B effort with Ed Sheeran is dominating the charts right now.

It’s only up from here.