By Emily Ledgeway
This Is What I Mean was a long awaited album weighing on Stormzy’s close life, giving a close look on his emotional and more vulenrable edge. With his last album Heavy Is The Head realsed in December 2019 and his recent public break-up within the last year, fans anticapated and knowingly that this record will be strongly influenced by ex girlfriend Maya Jama.
This Is What I Mean gives us a completely different side to Stormzy as he expresses his lyrics with complete individuality, compared to his previous records. His latest work dives into a whole new world of what rap music can be expressed and presented. The record experiments into Stormzy’s exposed life where he puts his guard fully down.
The album provides a story that this is Stormzy’s introverted life; understanding what is going on through his mind as he expresses his inner feelings from his heartbreak and pain. Stormzy’s latest work is becoming something different compared to his previous records. With the rappers different approach, it will be exclusive to his fans who relate to the pain and stories Stormzy expresses. Relapsing into new music that expresses his true self is a game changer in the hip-hop/rap genre as it breaks down barriers on what rap music is. Stormzy’s new record changes that and is expressed through his lyrics and music so beautifully how he defines his pain and emotions.
The album starts off with a beautiful eight-minute song, ‘Fire + Water’. It’s giving his listeners a completely different vibe from his previous work. The mellow tone of his voice is soothing and unexpected, opening from what his fans were not expecting from a classic Stormzy record. His public breakup with Maya Jama faced the public, becoming a highly anticipated relationship amongst many fans. The song, ‘Fire + Water’, and the album highlight the connection showing the more venerable side to Stormzy, the lyrics dive behind Stormzy’s public persona. The lyrics “Just know the man I am today is not the guy you met”, show and singing his most personal and vulnerbale moments in his life. As the song continues, “I ain’t spillin’ all my truth to try and stress you with it, I was workin’ on my flaws to try to impress you with it.”
Stormzy’s way of writing his lyrics is very touching and comes across so angelic and so personal, the album becomes much more heartfelt. His lyrics come out so effortlessly as he speaks practically from his heart, opening up to his audience and showing who Stormzy is behind closed doors. The song ‘I got my smile back” is the second till last on the record, it expresses him and a previous relationship, his mental health struggles, getting through the first stage of a breakup and feeling lonely. The analysis of his breakdown of being left to the end of the song, where his lyrics peak where Stormzy tells off his insecurities and pain, “Paranoia doesn’t shout me, but I know the truth”, and how he has grown from the start of the song to the end with “Me and Joy got tighter, that was overdue”.
‘Holy Spirit’ starts with a soft piano sound with a beautiful string quartet, starting the song with a sorrow feel. Straight away, Stormzy starts singing about ‘The pressure on my shoulders’ as he calls to ‘Father’ for help. Stormzy confronts his faith and closeness with his belief that he’s felt missing as he sings, “I’ve been searching for my Jesus’. The song focus’ on the rapper finding his own faith when feeling disorientated and finding a belief that can help find that guidance. The hard-hitting lyrics project real feelings and connections throughout the song and his life, delivering a beautiful and emotional relationship between Stormzy and his faith.
However, only some of his records are soft and angelic melodies. The song ‘My President is Black’ increases the album’s freshness. The music is easy to listen to, creating a diversion into the album. Yet, the lyrics feel so existent in the present. At the end of the song, a close conversation with Stormzy’s talent is recognised over, what seems, a phone call, “So that’s why I say For the road that you go on from now is what you’re pavin’ for the lane, It’s this road for all these people to walk. And I think that’s what’s going to be one of the greatest legacies. That, you know, together, your leaders, all the black English. It’s that, uh, it’s like a full circle; we came all the way around”.
The album differentiates itself from his previous two studio albums, Heavy Is The Head and Gang Signs & Prayer. The heavy, loud beats compared to the soft and angelic sound Stormzy has experimented with in this record. The music compliments his voice and creates fondness in his songwriting. This may not be very reassuring to some fans. Still, Stormzy’s experimentation is heading in the right direction, changing the hip-hop/rap scene and creating a unique and diverse genre.