TheRe’S nothing like the Brit Awards for helping Left-wing celebrities gain the oxygen of publicity. Broadcast live, on prime-time telly, the annual music industry shindig has, over the years, been jollified by such timeless PR stunts as pop group Chumbawumba tipping an ice bucket over John Prescott, Ronnie wood pushing then throwing a drink over an inebriated DJ called Brandon Block, and singer Jarvis Cocker storming the stage to ‘moon’ in the general direction of Michael Jackson.
On wednesday, a modish 24- year- old ‘grime’ star known as Stormzy continued this noble tradition, using his performance to monster the Prime Minister via the medium of rap, calling her a ‘criminal’ who had not only smeared the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy as ‘ savages’, but also starved them of cash.
‘Yo, Theresa May, where’s the money for Grenfell?’ he asked. ‘You think we just forgot about Grenfell? You criminals, and you’ve got the cheek to call us savages, you should do some jail time, you should pay some damages, you should burn your house down and see if you can manage this.’
Stormzy then remarked that this newspaper could ‘ suck my d**k’, apparently on the grounds that our sister website recently carried an article quoting a mental health expert from York University who blames his lyrics, popular among impressionable teenagers, for glamorising ultra-strong ‘skunk’ marijuana.
This being 2018, the remarks met with high praise in the echo chamber of social media, where Labour’s Twitterati proclaimed them a highlight of the night.
Jeremy Corbyn promptly remarked ‘what a powerful performance’, while the rapper’s hard-Left local MP, Labour’s emma Dent Coad, praised him for, allegedly, ‘ speaking truth to power’. her colleague David Lammy, a former Blairite minister, said the remarks deserved ‘respect’.
Set aside, for a moment, the small — if inevitable — fact that Stormzy was actually doing the very opposite of ‘speaking truth’. Theresa May has never called anyone ‘savages’, and her government has so far committed around £250 million of taxpayers’ money to the Grenfell tragedy, according to whitehall sources.
Indeed, no. 10 responded yesterday by saying the PM is ‘absolutely committed’ to supporting those affected by the Grenfell tragedy. Forget also the delicious irony of this multi-millionaire sermonising from a venue plastered with the logo of corporate sponsor Mastercard. For a more intriguing aspect of this headline-grabbing episode is the light it throws on the close relationship between ‘grime’ music and what one might call the cult of Corbyn.
Stars of the genre, which is very loosely defined as British hip-hop, were instrumental in persuading young people to vote Labour at last year’s election via a campaign called ‘Grime4Corbyn’.
It saw them repeatedly endorse him via songs and videos shared on social media, where Stormzy boasts 1.1 million followers on Twitter and 1.7 million more on Instagram.
In the run-up to polling day, the singer, whose two Brit Awards attest to his status as grime’s most mainstream and charismatic star, repeatedly encouraged fans to first register to vote, and then back the 68-year-old Labour leader.
MEANWHILE, his native Croydon — a key marginal — was flooded with unofficial leaflets and posters bearing his image, along with a message saying: ‘The Tories hold Croydon by 165 votes (that’s literally it) — even your dad’s got more Facebook friends.’
Pop stars and Left-leaning celebrities backing Labour at an election is, of course, nothing new.
however, in the febrile atmosphere of last year’s election, Stormzy and his peers seem to have been unusually successful. Research from westminster University later suggested 58 per cent of grime fans — a demographic which takes in several million mostlyyoung voters — backed Labour, while one in four said they were inspired to by the Grime4Corbyn campaign.
By way of a ‘thank you’, Corbyn recorded a personal tribute to Stormzy which was read out when he was honoured at the MOBO awards shortly afterwards. ‘In the General election, your contribution helped secure the highest youth turnout in a quarter of a century, showing the positive impact grime has on our society,’ it went.
The duo then appeared on stage together both at Glastonbury, where Stormzy persuaded tens of thousands of largely middle- class fans (who had paid £243 per ticket) to serenade him by singing ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’, and at the GQ Awards. At the latter event, the singer was presented with the ‘artist of the year’ award by Corbyn, who giggled when Stormzy used his acceptance speech to dub Theresa May as a ‘paigon’, a slang term he subsequently said means ‘a snake, a foul person’.
Cynics may argue that Stormzy should be using his status as a role model to campaign on such pertinent issues as the scourge of knife crime, rather than issuing slurs towards female politicians.
however, his obsession with party politics is, like much of his (deservedly successful) music, almost certainly a product of his upbringing. Christened Michael ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Junior, he’s one of four children of Abigail Owou, an evangelical Christian of Ghanaian heritage, and grew up in a housing association property near norbury fire station in South London.
his father, who worked as a cabbie, deserted the family when he was an infant. As a result, Owou was left with very little money, and her children were sent to tough local schools. Michael did well until just after his GCSes, when he fell into a bad crowd and began misbehaving.
eventually, he was expelled and soon became caught up in a gang. ‘Back then, I’m waking up, I’m hitting the roads, I’m going to get drugs,
and I’m going to sell drugs, and I’m linking up with the mandem [gang] later, and we’re going to figure out how to make some money tonight, where we can rob and who we can move to,’ he once recalled.
Aged 19, he joined an apprentice course, ending up as a project manager at an oil refinery off the south coast. But then his music career — being pursued in his free time — took off.
A series of home-made rap videos uploaded to YouTube became viral hits, and a selfpublished 2014 record led to TV bookings. His album ‘Gang Signs & Prayer’ was released and it was the first grime record to be a UK No.1.
By now, he was on first-name terms with Corbyn, who he’d endorsed, saying: ‘I feel like he gets what the ethnic minorities are going through and the homeless and the working class.’
He also used social media to attack the Government, calling Tory ministers ‘p***yholes’ over nurses’ pay. With girlfriend Maya Jama, a Radio One host, he lives in a £2 million flat, rented from a senior executive of a major bank in West London.
More recently, he became acquainted with Princes William and Harry after speaking publicly about how he had struggled with depression.
Inevitably there have been controversies — such as when it was revealed he’d used homophobic language on Twitter before finding fame (he swiftly apologised).
He also rebuked the police for seizing a kilo of heroin, 190 knives and 18 firearms during raids on the eve of the Notting Hill Carnival — asking if such raids had happened before Glastonbury or only ‘for black events’.
Like many wealthy socialists, he’s an astute businessman, funnelling earnings through a network of companies set up by accountants who say their work involves mainly advising ‘a select client base of ultra-high-networth individuals’ and ‘overseas companies and non-domiciled individuals’ on ‘tax and accounting issues in the UK and worldwide’.
What Mr Corbyn might think of such firms is anyone’s guess. But following his very public endorsement of Stormzy this week, nothing will stop him being this modish young musician’s number one fan.