Stormzy dropped his new single Mel Made Me Do It casually the night of Thursday, September 22 and, within minutes, Twitter (his least favorite place) was in an uproar. Before fans could even digest the song through streaming services, he dropped an 11-minute cinematic film to accompany the single.
Mel Made Me Do It (#MMMDI) tells a story, transporting us through the life of Stormzy — a now multi-millionaire, globally-recognized musician — and his village who are there to watch his momentous rise from the start. With cameos from football manager Jose Mourinho (Stormzy supports Manchester United which Mourinho headed in 2016-2018) to Grime music legend JME (whom Stormzy credits as one of the pioneers of the scene and instrumental to the trajectory of his career), Mel Made Me Do It has been called a “masterclass” and “masterpiece”, elevating Black British rap to levels not seen before. It’s bold and, given the sheer amount of celebrities who took part, it had a big budget.
Currently sitting on 3.4 million views on YouTube since its release and trending at number one for music on the platform, both the song and video are Black Britishness at its core — with both the lyrics and video feeling like inside knowledge that only we, Black Brits, will likely understand. In one scene, the world’s greatest athlete Usain Bolt turns on the TV to watch longstanding British TV presenter Jonathan Ross share his late-night couch with rising Black presenter Zeze Millz; Louis Theroux, Dina Asher-Smith and Stormzy are “guests”. Zeze Millz’ place alongside Ross feels significant as if to say, the new talent is coming through and more Black faces are making it into mainstream stardom. Black Brits are taking their rightful seat at the table.
Stormzy has always made light work of promoting and uplifting upcoming Black British talent. If we look at the 29-year-old’s reign so far — not just in music, but in his philanthropic work — he is exceeding above and beyond, for us all. From his scholarship for Black people to go to Cambridge University, his award-winning imprint Merky books that champion Black and marginalized writers, and much more, Stormzy continually surpasses limited ideas of what a rapper from Croydon should be and do.
The entire song is a bodacious brag from Stormzy. He’s not being humble anymore, he’s done all of that. He calls out the people who did not respect him; the podcasters that talk on his name (“But all I see is washed up godfathers and washed up podcasters”), the Twitter fingers that continue to talk on his name in a negative light (“Chatty patty n*****, man, you n***** need a talk show, I’ve never seen real dons turn loose women”). Stormzy has quite frankly had enough of it all and rightfully so. From Stormzy’s POV, he has BEEN the king, BEEN working and BEEN succeeding in everything he does and now it’s time for everyone to listen. “Fuck that you n***** better bask in my glory.”
Mel Made Me Do It is an ode to Black British culture and those continuing to champion the community. It’s an ode to Stormzy’s upbringing; growing up in South London, rapping from the tender age of 11 years old and living with his mother and sisters. He was surrounded by women, Black women. Stormzy — real name: Michael Omari Jr — did well in school, but wasn’t doing what he wanted to do, which is a reality for a lot of Black British students. There’s a common expectation in the African community that we have to get straight As and beyond in order to succeed. Michael Omari Jr. broke that stigma when he became Stormzy. Hence why this video symbolizes a ray of hope.
It’s worth noting that the song is called “Mel Made Me Do It,” and if you have been living under a rock, ‘Mel’ is Melissa Holdbrook-Aposse, known on Instagram as Melissa’s Wardrobe and is the queen of influencing; she’s the one that sold out the Zara dress, made us run to buy perfumes we hadn’t even smelt yet, and one that makes us spend our COINS on anything and everything she posts, hence the hashtag #MMMDI. Without a doubt, she’s your influencer’s influencer. Aside from being the leader of the pack, Holdbrook-Aposse is a celebrity stylist, having styled Anthony Joshua to Sabrina Elba and, of course, Stormzy. You can’t ignore Mel’s imprint in Black British culture and Stormzy has given her justified recognition on a mainstream stage.
Alongside Holdbrook-Aposse, the video highlights a plethora of Black women in Stormzy’s life. Throughout the video, Black women are highly visible even when they aren’t on screen; from the conception of the video, those in his team to the Black women in the industry. Stormzy had to let people know that Black women are what made him. The song opens with his mum’s, a Black woman, voice – “I’m not going on economy, Stormzy is my son,” – and the outro ends with a poem recited by award-winning actor, writer and director Michaela Coel, a Black woman. Given Black women are subjected to criticism every day (if it’s not men talking about their dating preference or lack of when it comes to Black women on Twitter or TikTok are deciphering the “UK Black girl look”) to see Black women glorified as much as Stormzy has done in this video, has been a refreshing change of tone.
Stormzy x MMMDI shares the importance of our identity — not just being Black but being Black and British too. Possibly the most moving part of the video, saw figureheads in Black British entertainment (past, present and passed) all dressed in white, and the celestial scene showed a purity of a community that still believes that when one wins, everyone wins together. With this gesture, Stormzy uplifted Black people from every single sector — tastemakers and movement shifters alike. Undeniably, each person in the video has made huge contributions to the culture; from the No Signal team (Jojo, David, Taja, RBC and Huda) who kept the culture alive and rocking during lockdown with their Black radio station from their homes, to Jenny Francis and Trevor Nelson, Black British radio icons and extraordinaires. Little Simz stands next to Dave, representing the two chart-topping talents following in Stormzy’s successful footsteps. Clint — the latest fashion designer taking over the world with his brand Cortiez — stands next to former New Era creative director, Wale Adeyemi. Jenny Francis, Julie Adenuga and Nella Rose walk majestically as they demonstrate three generations of Black women on screen, Black women on radio and Black women dominating YouTube. You then have the author of the culturally stirring book Keisha The Sket, Jade LB, walking in tandem with renowned Black British author Malorie Blackman. The juxtaposition of young and old Black representation within the same field was the perfect homage to those who walked before and the talents who are continuing the legacy they started.
The appearances from these Black British idols aren’t just to make some perfunctory display of Stormzy’s contacts book. The people in the video are Stormzy’s culture. In a time when we’re still fighting for justice for the recent death of an unarmed Black man by Metropolitan Police, Chris Kaba, Stormzy’s video gives us hope, and sense of ‘we’re all alone this together,’ word to Dave).
Black Britishness is not just a flat surface; it’s a multi-dimensional culture that emancipates us from the upbringing many of us had and the future we want for ourselves. Stormzy’s bold and unapologetically Blackity-Black British video is a signpost to continue to make things happen for us and our community.
By the very end of the video, the poem written by Wretch 32 and recited by Coel takes you through the journey of Black Britishness and the importance of each person shown. “Today we speak about foundation. Many great Black influential giants have touched people from Soul II Soul throughout many generations.” With the world being forced to constantly give flowers to those that have passed too soon, Stormzy’s video acknowledges that it’s time to start showing love and appreciation while our icons are still here. This point is reiterated when the video pans to the family of the late Jamal Edwards, owner of underground streaming platform SBTV, who passed suddenly at the age of 31 earlier this year. Dressed in all-white, Edwards’ family hold up his picture while standing next to two owners of other UK streaming platforms that champion Black music, Link Up TV and GRM Daily, Posty and Rashid Kasiyre.
In the same poem, Coel reminds us that this moment in Black British history is not a phase, “this is phase one.” And just like Beyoncé’s Renaissance is Act I, this is just phase one for us too. Phase one of how much more we can grow. Phase one of the excellence that is coming out of the Black community. Phase one of our takeover.
Black culture is in a renaissance right now. Stormzy himself is going through a rebirth and a new movement in his life. In a British GQ article where Holdbrook-Aposse spoke about the direction of Stormzy’s style, she said: “With the music video and the clothes in particular we wanted to reflect where he’s going with his personal life, where there’s lots of growth and maturity,” and this is exactly what we are seeing with this video. For Stormzy, in this era of his life, it’s all about community and family now for him. (and in the video as we see his family all laughing in the kitchen with his personal chef, Chef Vickz).
Stormzy has solidified who he is now. He has become a household name. And now, he’s giving us a teaser and lead up to his third studio album and what’s next. In his postponed ‘Heavy Is The Head’ world tour, during the London leg, he said in a clip shown at the end of the video: “This is the album of my dreams. There’s absolutely zero reason for this to not be the most incredible thing we’ve all made of our lives.”
It’s going to be one hell of a ride to album three and phase two, and we can’t wait to take this journey with you, Stormzy. This is not a phase, this is phase one.
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