Stormzy – “Standard” Review
Behind the smiling face, laugh-out-loud punchlines and endless onslaught of hashtags (#problem #merky #wickedskegman #stiffchocolate), lies the hottest MC on the grime scene. YouTube commenters might fool you into thinking the biggest debate surrounding the rapper is whether he looks more like Christian Benteke or Romulu Lukaku, but those in know are contemplating a far more substantial question: has Dizzee Rascal’s heir apparent has finally arrived? After all, how many rappers not named Drake could send a freestyle into the Top 20?
Stormzy mix of infectious charisma and flip switch intensity wins skeptics over so effortlessly that it’s actually hard to take the proud South Londoner seriously. Without a modicum of effort he puts smiles on faces as he happily engages in self-deprecation (“Stormzy’s hairline’s going way back/But I still fuck your girl, go and retweet that little nigga”). Like a bigger burlier Chance The Rapper, Stormzy brings everyone along for the ride: his good time is your good time and, when he bounced down the street with his “nan” in the loveable lo-fi “Know Me From” video, he won over an entire nation.
Feel good vibes and blistering guest verses (30 seconds of Stormzy made Lethal Bizzle relevant in 2015) are one thing, but it’s time Stiff Chocolate delivered his next proper single. Enter “Standard”, a JME sampling hit in waiting. The hook adheres to a formula that is dangerously tired, but Stormzy punctures the tedium by throwing in a crafty threat (“leave a boy’s face in the Evening (Standard!)”) that goes someway to elevating a selection of boasts you’ll have heard a thousand times before. Still, there is a thrill in seeing Stormzy go this hard, exchanging the jovial bounce of “Know Me From” for a harder more minimalist beat (like a Chi-Town creeper struggling to contain a frenzied ADHD energy).
Unlike “Not That Deep”, which was also produced by The Heavytrackerz, Stormzy is not punctuating his vitriol with instantly quotable punchlines (“Your Postcode don’t make you a gangsta/Your not bad, your area is”). The strange result is a track that juxtaposes a vicious broadside against his envious peers with a chorus that is bending over backwards for radio play. Perhaps, in a year where beef has consumed the grime scene, Stormzy is more concerned with making it clear he is not to be fucked with, rather than winning hearts and minds. As far as box ticking exercises go, Stormzy’s rise from anonymity to ubiquity is suprising thorough: big hooks (check), killer put downs (check), legendary freestyles (check), sense of humor (big check) and, now, murderous intensity (check, check, check).
If there is disappointment to be found in Stormzy’s syllable slinging arsenal it’s that, on a track that recalls Dizzy’s flow, the 22-year-old rapper has yet to mirror his idol’s social conscience. Dizzee Rascal was famously “a problem for Anthony Blair” (not a boast but a cry for help from one of London’s crime ridden estates); Stormzy the #problem, for all his merits, is only troubling the fuck boys at present. Still, it’s hard to knock a track that sets out to intimidate for lacking high-minded ideals. By the time Stormzy blurts out the closing lines (“all those threats go over my head, because your just not savage enough, you’re no goon”) his enemies will be begging for mercy and quivering in their tracky bottoms.