Stormzy: Mel Made Me Do It review – boastful, whip-smart wordplay that makes it look easy

·2-min read

Stormzy songs tend to fall into one of two camps: choral, heaving and heartfelt, all hefty sentiments and soul-bearing, or puff-chested flexing, replete with yachts, Yacht-Masters, and MC masterclassing. But Mel Made Me Do It – his first solo outing in nearly three years – manages a rare trick, slotting somewhere in the chasm between those two modes without becoming completely lost. The beat – spare, with a fleck of choir here, pluck of harp there, chugged along with the woody rattle of what sounds like a goat’s bell and the stomp of a size 12 kick – provides the kind of space that an MC might emote in. For the most part though, there is boasting. Just shy of seven-and-a-half minutes of it, no less.

While Stormzy’s last album, 2019’s Heavy Is the Head, ruminated on the perils – and responsibilities – of acclaim, Mel Made Me Do It finds him comfortable with a crown atop his head. The opening line – “I’ve been the GOAT for so long, I guess it’s not exciting when I win” – is disarming to the extent that it predicts, and nullifies, exactly what a critic might say of an artist’s long-awaited return. “To make a classic, yeah, it takes ages,” he goes on. Well, touché.

The last time we heard Stormzy rolling solo on a record was 2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic warped timelines and cancelled world tours. He was kicking back at his critics then, too. Over a protracted few weeks, he went tit-for-tat with perennial grime wind-up Wiley, first on Twitter, then over beats. But having seemingly left the spat alone, he picks up here where he left off, chopping up old Wiley flows and calling out “washed-up godfathers” while listing his own (admittedly numerous) accolades and expensive timepieces.

Related: Def Jam: how a new British imprint of the iconic rap label poached Stormzy

It’s a testament to Stormzy’s magnetism – which, unlike any of his peers, can hold a Glastonbury headline crowd attentive just as well as it charms on the BBC Breakfast couch – that this act doesn’t get boring. This is partly down to Stormzy’s whip-smart wordplay, but more so to do with flows. He gets through more than a single hand can count within a minute or so, then tracks back, flipping vowels, juggling consonants, spinning tricks on his tongue, and – backed by this lolloping, languorous, luxuriously sparse beat – makes it look easy.

Proverbs 27 goes something like this: “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth. An outsider, and not your own lips.” Stormzy might agree. But why let someone else brag on your behalf when you can make it sound so good yourself?