Noteworthy moments at the Brit awards are usually lairy and undignified – Jarvis Cocker’s faux fart, John Prescott getting drenched with an ice bucket, Ronnie Wood scuffling on stage with the DJ Brandon Block. It was bracing, then, that this year’s ceremony was defined instead by a lucid and profound diatribe delivered by the 24-year-old south London grime rapper Stormzy.
The headlines were grabbed by his swift denunciation of Theresa May, accused of sluggishness in distributing funds to the victims of Grenfell. After Stormzy’s humane contribution to the Grenfell charity single, this was something different: vocalising the anger of victims, and of an urban working class who feel ignored by Mrs May’s government.
But the most revolutionary part of his freestyle rap came in its second half. Stormzy spoke movingly of being raised by “black girl magic”, paying tribute to his mother and sisters, and hymned the successes of other young black Britons: supermodel Jourdan Dunn and Oscar-nominated actor Daniel Kaluuya. He said seeing them on TV inspired him. In closing out the biggest event in the British music industry, Stormzy will hopefully prove similarly inspirational. For all the gradual advances in equality, it is still rare to hear blackness itself celebrated in such a public forum. And in an atomised media age where we curate our own little echo chambers, it is more important than ever that people of colour are given access to the dwindling number of shared cultural spaces if we want that empowerment to continue.