British grime rapper Stormzy had a massive 2015 — and now he knows he can count Adele among his growing cadre of fans. During a concert Monday at London’s O2 Arena, the singer dedicated her performance of “Make You Feel My Love” to the 22-year-old rising star, who was in the audience.
“BRO I SWEAR ON MY MOTHERS LIFE ADELE JSUT BIGGED MAN UP ON STAGE IM BUGGING THE F–K OUT WTFFFFFF,” Stormzy tweeted, along with video of the moment. Adele also included a hand-written note in Stormzy’s program — “Thanks for coming to my show. I’m a big fan!” — which prompted Stormzy to call her “an amazing soul.”
Now that pop’s best-selling artist is on board with Stormzy, here’s what you need to know to follow suit.
He’s big across the pond.
Stormzy may not have much name recognition in the States yet, but he scored a top 10 hit last year in his native U.K. “Shut Up” silences haters with wit (“I’m the best, I’m so cocky / I’ve got a mob like A$AP Rocky / I set trends, them man copy”) and backs his rhymes up with an infectious beat.
Kanye West digs him.
When the world’s biggest rapper debuted his song “All Day” at the 2015 BRIT Awards, he brought along a crew of U.K. grime artists including Stormzy. “Kanye’s one of the biggest artists of today, not only in music, across the whole culture full stop,” he said in an interview last spring. “For someone like that to come into your world and say ‘This is sick’, that can never be a bad thing.” The admiration goes both ways: Stormzy wrote an editorial for NME defending Glastonbury’s choice to book West as a headliner at its 2015 festival.
He’s racking up awards.
At the U.K.’s MOBO Awards, Stormzy has won Best Grime Artist for the past two years. And the BBC placed him on its annual “Sound Of…” list — reputable among tastemakers — at the outset of 2015 along with other breakouts like Years & Years and James Bay. The list has previously predicted the rises of Sam Smith, Skrillex, Frank Ocean, and even Adele.
His music isn’t pure grime.
Sure, Stormzy can go off when he wants — just listen to the bombastic “One Take Freestyle” — but his greatest asset is his versatility. “All That Matters” and “Storm Trooper” tackle serious subject matter with catchy radio-ready palatability that proves Stormzy’s eventual star turn is less if than when.
He created a parody of The X Factor in an attempt to help “Shut Up” top the U.K. Singles Chart.
Stormzy’s “Shut Up” cracked the top 10 on Britain’s singles chart, but he didn’t stop there. The artist drummed up a massive social media campaign that included smoking weed with fans, dabbing to the song on video, singing an alternate version with Christmas lyrics, and even recording a spoof of The X Factor that — as its title, The G Factor suggests — chronicled the search for the next grime superstar.
Kevin Hart rap battled him.
While Hart was promoting this year’s Ride Along 2, he and co-star Ice Cube sat with Stormzy for some casual rapping. Stormzy predictably schools Hart, but the funniest part is that one of N.W.A.’s founders just sits, watches, and smiles.
He’s already an important voice in the industry.
Stormzy lectured the Oxford Guild — the prestigious university’s professional society — last month, joining the ranks of previous guest speakers like Kanye West and Lil Jon. And he defended grime earlier this year when the BRIT Awards failed to sufficiently recognize the genre. “I thought it was such a shame,” he told the BBC. “After all the great things that my peers have contributed to British music this year, that it wasn’t recognized on a world stage like that. It’s just a matter of breaking the doors down and carrying on.”
He had a massive run at this year’s SXSW.
After a handful of packed shows at Austin’s SXSW Festival, Stormzy made sure soon-to-be fans would remember him. “Many of you here don’t now me,” he said during one set at the Fader Fort. ” so I’m going to keep saying my name till you do!”