Heavy Is the Head feels like the crowning moment in Stormzy’s defining hour. Album two arrives two years after the incendiary Gang Signs & Prayer, and in that time the South London MC has emerged as one of the most powerful voices in contemporary Britain. Heavy Is the Head is testament to that new spirit. Played out over 16 songs, the album sees Stormzy lay himself bare on a record that reckons with the pressures of fame and the weight of expectation that befalls a young man ordained spokesperson for his generation.
“When Banksy put the vest on me/It felt like God was testing me,” he says on “Audacity” with Headie One, calling back to that iconic moment on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage where he wore a stab-proof Union Jack designed by the artist. Elsewhere, there are moments of impassioned prayer on “Do Better” and sorrowful confessions on “Lessons.” “Superheroes” is a love letter to an emerging black British generation, to whom he says, “Our parents were legends/They had to migrate,” before adding: “All I see is innovators and a bag of icons.”
There is flossing on “Pop Boy” with Mancunian rapper Aitch and deep vulnerability on “One Second” with US singer-songwriter H.E.R. There is homage to his upbringing and frank reflections on the direction his life has since tilted. There is defiance and regret, there is community and hope, there is passion and pride. It is Stormzy taking ownership of his responsibility, a young man whose story and words give voice to the many who go unheard and unseen in Britain today.