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UK: GRIME KING: Stormzy Takes His Place @ The National Portrait Gallery

By Published December 11, 2019

There is a new and unusual addition to the National Portrait Gallery, it’s a photographic portrait of Grime rap sensation – Stormzy.

In what its director describes as a “contemporary intervention”, the Croydon-born rapper wearing a crown made up of the letters HITH, standing for Heavy Is the Head, the title of his new album which released on Friday 13 December gazing at the Banksy-designed controversial stab-proof vest he wore during his debut headline performance at 2019’s Glastonbury festival.

Stormzy said it was “nothing but an honour” to be “exhibited in a gallery which exhibits so many incredible portraits of those from British history”.

Gallery director Nicholas Cullinan said he was delighted to exhibit the portrait “as a contemporary intervention within our historic galleries, and hope to be able to acquire the work for the gallery’s permanent collection.

Stormzy has undoubtedly had a significant influence on British culture today, both through his music and work with minority groups and young people, and we hope our visitors will enjoy the juxtaposition of this new work with historic paintings of influential figures from the Victorian era, from politicians, royalty and radicals to artists, sporting heroes and singers.”

The HITH album’s first single, Vossi Bop, went straight to No 1 in the UK charts and spent nine weeks in the Top 5; a second single, Crown, reached No 4, and features the Shakespeare-riffing lyric quoted in the album title: “Heavy is the head that wears the crown” while a third single, Own It, a collabo with Ed Sheeran, is currently at No 3.

Stormzy will be embarking on a 55-date world tour beginning on 10 February, that will include dates in Europe, Asia, Australasia, North America and Africa, including 13 dates in the UK to finish in Lagos, Nigeria, on 10 October 2020.

Rapping since the age of eleven, Stormzy rose to prominence in 2014 with his Wicked Skengman freestyles and self-released debut EP Dreamers Disease.

In 2015 his single ‘Shut Up’ reached seventeen million views online, it became the first freestyle to reach the UK charts, and twice earned him the Best Grime Act MOBO award.

Then came ‘Gang Signs & Prayer’ in 2017, the first Grime album to reach number one in the UK album charts and took him to the stage at the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival – the first UK rapper in history to do so.

Aside his significant contribution to music, Stormzy is an active supporter of minority groups and funds two Cambridge University scholarships for black students. He also champions young people, launching a new writer’s prize for authors under the age of 30.

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