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Stormzy Launches New Book Live At The Barbican

We were there to witness the man himself delve into his new venture with Publishing Giant Penguin

8th Nov 2018

"My goal is to become an incredible artist, not just an incredible grime artist."

"Saying that, the bottom line will still be the same."

"I'm still Stormzy. I'm still greazy. I'm still a bad boy."

These words of Michael Omari - or Stormzy, as he is known to millions around the world - are written on page 126 of 'Rise Up', sandwiched between prose from Alec, Akua and Austin, three members of the tightly knit #Merky team.

He may have been the one on the Barbican stage yesterday - but Stormzy made it clear that this book was not about him - and rightly so.

Watched on by thousands at the Merky Books Launch, the artist said: "I did not want to make this book personal. I wanted to tell the Merky story."

Even at the event itself - something that, while somewhat self-promotional for his own book (even then, the book was being distributed for free) - Stormzy took the focus away from himself.

Asked about performing that Grenfell lyric at the Brit awards, he said: "I did not see it as a risk.

If I can do a little thing that will help people in any way, shape or form, I should do it."

Spoken word was followed by a powerful panel discussion - three generations of successful black, British writers were able to enthrall and inspire. The works of Marcus Garvey were being discussed by the likes of Malorie Blackman and Benjamin Zepaniah.

Those outside the culture often think of hip-hop as a basic, violent scrawl instead of acknowledging the educational and societal power the genre can have. Interviewer Akala noted: "We both came top of our class."

But neither he nor Stormzy went through standard higher education. Instead, they obtained their platform in an alternative way, and were now using it to radiate hope to a diverse, young audience.

The big man almost seemed like an afterthought.

If Team #Merky meant that - and I'm sure they did - then they were only sticking to their philosophy.

The event was not to promote the artist, but represented the use of Stormzy as a vessel for the success of ethnic minorities.

Perhaps the spirit was summed up best when, asked about what's next, he had no intention of talking about his own music, instead saying: "I want Merky to be a thing that is an umbrella for healthcare, education, music, everything."

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