Even moreso than the likes of Skepta and Jme, London MC Stormzy has become the face of grime worldwide. His debut album Gang Signs & Prayer just went to numer one in the UK, the first grime LP to ever reach such heights.
In a Channel 4 interview last month, Stormzy opened up about the experiences underyling some of his lyrics, which often paint a picture of emotional repression and loneliness. “I always saw myself as this strong person who just deals with life, I get on with it – and if something gets me low, I pick myself back up," he said. "That’s always been my philosophy. Even down to the point where one of my closest friends who was suffering from it, I used to dismiss him."
Stormzy went on: “It wasn’t a harsh way, I just used to think ‘just be happy’, do you know what I mean? ‘Just pull it together’. That was a world that was so alien to me. I just used to think ‘you get up, march on.' What convinced me to talk about it was the fact that if there’s anyone out there going through it, I think to see that I went through it would help.”
This week, storied UK magazine NME released a cover story on depression in the music industry, and used Stormzy's image for the cover without his even asking him for permission.
Suffice it to say, the grime star was not pleased. “You lot are a bunch of real life fucking pussyholes. Proper dickheads”, Stormzy said on Twitter. “We’ve had a good relationship before this, why do you think it is kool to use my me as a poster boy for such a sensitive issue without permission?”
“Depression is a very very sensitive issue and it’s something I’ve spoken about. It is a subject that isn’t the easiest thing to speak about. And I’ve been careful in how I’ve dealt with it in the media...After I spoke on it I realised how widespread the issue is which made me think ok kool maybe that was the right thing to do at first. However using my face as a poster boy for it to sell your magazine is so foul and below the belt I will never respect you lot.”
NME Editor-in-Chief defended the magazine's position: “I’m sorry that you didn’t know your image would be our cover. Our intentions were only positive,” he said. “We used your image as we felt it would resonate most with our readers, and I can only apologise again that you didn’t know… We’re a free magazine and were not trying to shift copies, just talk about something important.”
Further complicating the matter, journalist Andrew Trendell, who authored the piece, attempted to extricate himself from the blame with the following: “I had absolutely no part in the cover itself, the photos used nor the cover lines,” he said, before adding, “[I've] lost loved ones to depression, dealt with it first-hand and seen the stigma that surrounds it with countless others.”