‘It’s My Purpose To Shine A Light Where I Can’: How Rapper Stormzy Champions Black British Culture

‘It’s My Purpose To Shine A Light Where I Can’: How Rapper Stormzy Champions Black British Culture

Singer Stormzy performs on the third day of Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm, Somerset, England, Friday, June 28, 2019. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

When British rapper Stormzy graces the stage, he stands tall embodying the heights that Black culture has reached in the predominantly white country.

Known as grime, the U.K. electronic dance music genre emerged from London’s multicultural streets in the early 2000s. =Stormzy further popularized it.

A 26-year-old award-winning artist, his full name is Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr. He made history this year as the first Black male solo artist to headline the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival, one of the world’s largest music festivals.

His duet with Ed Sheeran, “Take Me Back to London,” topped the British singles charts for five weeks in the fall.

Growing up in Norbury, Southwest London, Stormzy was fascinated with grime culture on TV and started rapping with his friends. He was, to many peoples’ surprise, academically brilliant and earned exemplary grades in secondary school.

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Stormzy aims to empower Black culture

With fame in his grasp, Stormzy now wants to help others like him by bringing greater visibility to a wider community of Black musicians, artists and creators in the U.K.

“There’s always been a kind of lack of spotlight and shine on the Black British side of British culture,” Stormzy told TIME. “(But) there’s a whole world of it … It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s coming of age right now.”

Stormzy’s commitment to collectivism goes beyond shouting out his fellow grime artists on Glastonbury’s main stage.

He launched Merky Books, a publishing imprint with Penguin Random House U.K., as well as partnering with Cambridge University to launch the Stormzy Scholarship, funding the tuition fees and living costs of two Black students during their degree studies, according to TIME.