Stormzy’s career took off from the moment he began releasing his earliest singles “Know Me From When” and “WickedSkengMan 4” back in 2015.
Since then, the grime superstar has been on an express trajectory to global acclaim, racking up hundreds of millions of streams on music platforms and selling out shows worldwide.
But as his stature has grown, he’s never strayed far from his activist values. In fact, he’s become one of the music scene’s leading voices for transformative change.
Stormzy will be bringing his fiery worldview to the Global Citizen Festival: Accra stage in Ghana on Sept. 24, alongside other artistic luminaries including Usher, Gyakie, Sarkodie, Stonebwoy, SZA, and TEMS.
In tandem with the Global Citizen Festival: NYC, the Global Citizen Festival campaign is uniting world leaders, artists, activists, philanthropists, and Global Citizens around the world to achieve an ambitious policy agenda focused on empowering girls and women, taking climate action, breaking systemic barriers, and lifting up activists and advocates — all part of the year-long Global Citizen campaign, End Extreme Poverty NOW.
Stormzy will no doubt leave a lasting impression in Accra as he performs his top tracks and galvanizes the crowd with impassioned words, elevating causes he’s long championed. This isn’t the first time Stormzy will be stepping onto a Global Citizen stage, either — in 2019, he performed at the Global Citizen Prize award ceremony to celebrate inspiring activists, as well as performing as part of Global Citizen Live in 2021.
Stormzy has been inspiring us with his activism for years. Here are six of the biggest ways he’s uplifted people and fought injustice.
1. He launched a scholarship to send Black students to top universities.
Stormzy understands the power of higher education to transform a person’s life prospects, and is also keenly aware of the structural barriers to prevent historically excluded populations from entering university.
That’s why he established an annual scholarship program in 2018 to fully fund four years of undergraduate study at Cambridge University — one of the world’s top universities — for Black students.
"In school and college I had the ability and was almost destined to go to one of the top universities,” Stormzy told BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat. "But that didn't happen for myself ... so hopefully there's another young Black student out there that can have that opportunity through my scholarship."
"I always said that there's a whole bunch of academically brilliant, excellent students who also need an incentive,” he added. "It's been like that and it's always going to be like that — where we're going to have young Black students who are academically brilliant and smashing it, and they should just have that opportunity to walk into a university like Cambridge.”
2. Stormzy launched a book platform to help young writers get published.
As a lyrical mastermind himself, Stormzy also understands how language can empower people, opening their imaginations to broader horizons. Like higher education, however, structural barriers prevent many emerging writers from getting attention from publishing houses.
So Stormzy launched the Merky Books imprint at Penguin Random House to support and elevate young writers.
“I know too many talented writers that don’t always have an outlet or a means to get their work seen,” he said in an Instagram post. “Hopefully #Merky Books can now be a reference point for them to say, ‘I can be an author,’ and for that to be a realistic and achievable goal.”
“Reading and writing as a kid was integral to where I am today and I, from the bottom of my heart, cannot wait to hear your stories, your poems, your novels, your sci-fis, and then getting them out into the big wide world,” he added.
3. He canceled a festival appearance to fight racism.
Stormzy lives out his values on a daily basis and is unafraid to make hard decisions to stay true to his integrity.
Right before he was about to appear at the Snowbombing Festival in Austria in 2019, his team was aggressively targeted by security in an apparent act of racial discrimination. So Stormzy refused to perform to make the point that racism must be met with consequences.
“The last ever thing I wanna do is let down anyone who’s taken time out to support me,” Stormzy wrote. “So please hear me out, I too would be fuming if I travelled and spent money to go and watch an artist and they pull out last minute.”
“However, if these are the drastic steps that I need to take to make a point against racism and racial profiling, then trust me I’m taking it,” he added.
4. He dedicated his Brit Award performance to the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
Stormzy beat out his friend and collaborator Ed Sheeran to win best male solo artist and album of the year during the 2018 BRIT Awards. Rather than simply bask in the limelight, he used the platform to rail against the British government’s failure to adequately respond to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, which saw 72 people killed in a London tower block fire in 2017, and systemic injustice in general.
“Like yo Theresa May where’s the money for Grenfell?” he rapped. ”What you thought we just forgot about Grenfell? You criminals, and you got the cheek to call us savages. You should do some jail time, you should pay some damages.”
5. He boosted the Merky Foundation with a £10 million commitment.
In response to the George Floyd protests of 2020, Stormzy announced that he would donate £1 million a year for 10 years to uplifting and protecting Black people in the UK, which was approximately half of his wealth at the time.
“The uncomfortable truth that our country continuously fails to recognise and admit is that Black people in the UK have been at a constant disadvantage in every aspect of life — simply due to the colour of our skin,” Stormzy said in a statement. “I’m lucky enough to be in the position I’m in and I’ve heard people often dismiss the idea of racism existing in Britain by saying, ‘If the country’s so racist how have you become a success?!’”
6. Stormzy received an honorary degree for his philanthropy from University of Exeter.
Stormzy is just starting his philanthropic career, but his dedication to helping others has already earned him awards. Earlier this year, the University of Exeter, in the UK, gave him an honorary degree in philanthropy for his efforts.
“Some of our destinies is to save one life, some of us are destined to build nations and schools, some of us will focus on raising our families and those closest to us, some of us will help our local community, some of us will help the neighbour next door, some of us will help the world, some of us will help a friend,” he said in his acceptance speech.
“My point being that we should always share and support, uplift, and help in whatever capacity we are able to. All of these different sizes and levels of being a helping hand are all beautiful and all of them are just as powerful as each other,” he continued.
“Just as long as you’re doing what you can,” he added, “I pray that these words give you a bit of encouragement for you to go and be who you’re destined to be and to share some fruit once you bear some.”
Global Citizen Festival is calling on world leaders, corporations, and philanthropists to do more than they’ve ever done before to End Extreme Poverty NOW. Through our global campaign and with stages in two iconic locations — NYC’s Central Park and Accra’s Black Star Square — we will unite leaders, artists, activists, and Global Citizens around the world on Sept. 24 to achieve an ambitious policy agenda focused on empowering girls and women, taking climate action, breaking systemic barriers, and lifting up activists and advocates. Wherever you are in the world, you can join the campaign and take action right now by downloading the Global Citizen app.