Dear Stormzy, when did your mum last tell you off? And other tricky questions

Sir Elton John, Zadie Smith, Iggy Pop, Dame Judi Dench and others ask Stormzy the questions you might not have thought of

Royal flush: Stormzy lays out his cards.
King of the pack: Stormzy lays out his cards. Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian
Idris Elba

Q: Idris Elba

‘Do you have any hidden talents that would surprise your fans?’

I’m very good at poker. I’m very good at it. Texas Hold ’em. I’ve got a poker room in my house, and my friends have had some bad nights there over the past two years. I’m a proper game-head. Not, like, video games. I love poker, Monopoly, Scrabble, Connect 4. I’m a kid, like. I love a competitive game. And poker’s like the ultimate version of all skilled games. Love it! If I wasn’t a musician, I’d be a professional poker player. Proper.

* * *

Q: Candice Carty-Williams

Candice Carty-Williams

‘How did your orange trousers stay up when you headlined Glastonbury this year?’

Well, Candice, they didn’t really stay up. I can’t lie, that’s the one thing about Glasto I watch. “Ohhhh, they are really low.” My whole bum was out. There was thousands of mums saying, “Pull your trousers up young man!” Luckily I was in good nick, so it worked in my favour. My trousers needed to be that far down, for whatever reason.

Stage presence: Stormzy takes Glasto. But how did his trousers stay up?
Stage presence: Stormzy takes Glasto. But how did his trousers stay up? Photograph: Timmsy/Backgrid

Q: Kurupt FM Crew

korupt crew

‘Do you have any plans to do a movie? Because we’re doing one so technically if you do one now, it means that we’ve inspired you.’

That’s a proper Kurupt FM question, innit. I don’t have plans right now. I’ve always wanted the movie of my life to be, like, fucking epic. So I got to do some more epic shit, live a little longer. I’m only 26. Don’t know how much of a feature-length film that would make. When I do get round to it though, I’m sure it will have been inspired by the seed that Kurupt FM planted.

* * *

jessie ware

Q: Jessie Ware

‘Greggs Yum Yums still? Or are you a Greggs vegan sausage roll man now?’

You know what, I love a vegan sausage roll, but – disclaimer! – do not mistake me for a vegan. Still love a Yum Yum though. The sausage bean and cheese melt has been a favourite recently. Sausage steak bake; sausage, bean and cheese melt; or, in the festive season, you really want to get the turkey and cranberry one. That’s a good pastry.

Two pack: Greggs bestselling vegan sausage rolls.
Two pack: Greggs bestselling vegan sausage rolls. Photograph: Pat Tuson/Alamy

Q: Sir Elton John

‘I’ve been hugely impressed with the way you’ve used your success to establish the Stormzy Scholarships at Cambridge University. What was the response from Cambridge like? Did you encounter any resistance to the idea of a pop star setting up a bursary?’

Scholarship material: Sir Elton John.

Elton! I have a lot of respect for Cambridge. When we came in, they just held their hands up and said, “Yep, we’ve got a problem.” Of course! The stats were right there. They said: “We have a problem, let’s fix it.” And that’s what we’re working towards now. Since we’ve started working with them they’ve been nothing but brilliant. Super supportive. Whatever ideas we’ve got. Whatever we do. They know they’re way behind in terms of bridging the gap of whatever injustice was there, so they let us do whatever we need to do to make this right.

Do you know what I really respect? They’ve been unapologetic with the use of the word “black” when talking about the problem. They haven’t shied away from it. They haven’t used terms like “underprivileged”. They know it’s a black problem. Full praise to them.

There was resistance to “a pop star” setting up a bursary, but not from Cambridge. A lot of people said that the scholarship I’d set up, which is for black students, is racist. “It can’t be just for blacks, you’re racist!” I remember that on the day it was first announced I ended up feeling a bit sad. I thought I was doing a really good thing, and we put it out in the world and then the arrows came from everywhere. I spent the whole day replying to people in their DMs, because there were people who genuinely did not understand. You had the idiots who were just angry. And then you had people who were saying, “Hey Stormz, really love your music, really love everything you stand for, but how come this is just for black students?” So there was an education that had to happen.

First step to success: candidates for the first Stormzy Scholarship in partnership with Cambridge University
First step to success: candidates for the first Stormzy Scholarship in partnership with Cambridge University Photograph: Stormzy

A lot of the argument was that there are underprivileged people from all backgrounds. There are underprivileged white people, Asian people… Yeah, of course! So there is this umbrella of underprivileged that everyone falls under, but beneath that we have being black as well. Being black, you’re under-underprivileged. A lot of people don’t understand racism because they don’t even know it’s happening. They don’t know what being black means. The lack of opportunities. They’re not privy to it. So I took my time and I explained.

* * *

zadie smith

Q: Zadie Smith

‘Top five?’

Rappers, right? Jay-Z. Kendrick Lamar. Kanye West. Wretch 32... Who’s my fifth? Do I give it to Drake? I think it would be Drake. Jay-Z first, and everyone else can battle it out for the other four spots.

Jay-Z performs at Bercy stadium in Paris
Man of the moment: Jay-Z performs at Bercy stadium in Paris. Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Q: David Beckham

david beckham

‘You are such an inspiring artist for so many people, what are your hopes for the next generation of young grime artists in the UK?’

This is going to sound clichéd, but my hope for them, honestly, is that they go further than we’ve done. That’s all the elders should want for the next generation. I watched Wiley do that. I have a lot of love and respect for Wiley, because he wanted me to fly. “Fly, Stormzy. Take this genre further than we could ever take it.” That’s all we can do. We have to say to the next generation, “Whatever we’ve done, go and trump it.”

One day, when I’m 50 or 60, I hope to be in my kitchen, looking at some kid on the telly, some little black boy or girl, thinking, “Rah!” Thinking, “I had that at Glasto at 26, but this kid’s 17, and he or she’s three albums deep!” Watching them and thinking, “Woah, we could never have done that. We didn’t have the capacity. And here this kid is. Go and fly. Take it where we didn’t. Make it bigger and better.” I want to watch a kid and think, “Fuck it, he’s better than us.”

* * *

usain bolt

Q: Usain Bolt

‘We love music in Jamaica, especially reggae and dancehall. Which artists would you like to collaborate with in the future?’

Whaaaaa. Usain! I am the top boy! I am the gaffa! It’s gotta be Vybz innit, and Koffee. Koffee is hard. And there’s a wicked new artist called Stalk Ashley, who I love. She’s from Jamaica. She’s brilliant.

‘Koffee is hard!’: one of the artists who Stormzy would love to collaborate with.
‘Koffee is hard!’: one of the artists who Stormzy would love to collaborate with. Photograph: Sony Music

Q: Dame Judi Dench

dame judi dench

‘Having set up the wonderful Stormzy Scholarship at Cambridge, what would you have chosen to read had you had this glorious opportunity?’

I might actually go to uni. Something to do with literature. English. I always used to say political science. Could never tell you what the fuck that was, but I always said it because it sounded brilliant. But now: English. Something to do with books. Something that can have me lost in words. Poetry. Creative writing. None of that stiff literature.

Poetry in motion: Yrsa Daley-Ward
Poetry in motion: Yrsa Daley-Ward Photograph: PR

In the past couple of years I’ve started reading poetry again. Yrsa Daley-Ward, she’s the one, she really got me back into poetry. Rap’s an art form. When I’m writing music I see it as poetry, and I never forget I’m a poet myself. But that pen-to-pencil poetry, the meanings in it, the sentiment… I just think: “Wow, this is the shit that I love!”

* * *

Q: Iggy Pop

‘How does the session go down for a track like Shut Up? And what do you eat, drink, sniff or smoke on a session?’

Fuel for thought: what do you eat, drink, sniff or smoke, asks Iggy Pop.

Iggy Pop. He’s a mad hatter! Shut Up wasn’t even a studio session. That was a freestyle in the park. The instrumental I used on that is a legendary grime one. And that was me just writing, taking it back to when I was 13 years old, writing over grime beats. And then I just went to the park with my friends. That was it. I was just doing what I wanted to be doing, and it turned out I’d done something special. I knew it was good. I knew it was sick. But I didn’t think it was going to turn into something iconic, I didn’t know it was going to become what it became.

When we’re in the studio, there’s no girls, there’s no alcohol. There might be a little bit of weed sometimes. But if you come to one of my sessions, you’d have a great time. You could get your laptop out and do some work. It’s pure. It’s all about family. We sit down, we talk a bit of shit, we tell jokes. People pop up. And then we just work. And as soon as my brain’s gone dry I pack it up and go home. That might be 7pm, or 4pm, or 4am. Sometimes we’ll be up until 7am.

I’m in service to the art. When my brain stops, I call it a day. And then I’m back in the next day. It’s a rapper thing to do nights in the studio. But that’s crazy. I’m old, man. I need to walk my dog. Drinking in the studio? That’s raving every night. Fuck that! My body can’t take that shit. So I treat it like my beautiful job.

* * *

Emily Eavis

Q: Emily Eavis

‘Dear Stormz, I know you’re very close to your mum and she’s your biggest fan, but you were also naughty as a kid. When was the last time your mum gave you a proper telling off and what for?’

Hmmm. I was naughty, yeah, but nowadays I’m her golden boy. Me and my mum are best mates. I couldn’t even get told off by her if I tried. She proper rates me – whatever I do now I always get a pass from her. As soon as the music started kicking off, around 2014, she knew I’d be fine.

When was the last time she told me off? I remember once, a couple of years ago, we were at an awards show together and people kept taking my picture. They weren’t fans; they were award show types. As soon as I’d had my picture taken 10 or 15 times I started saying no. I just wanted to enjoy the show. And my mum said, “Nah, Junior, come on.” She always wants me to embrace that kind of thing. The kid at her church who wants a picture, the auntie who wants something signed. She’s always like, “Nah, Junior, you have to do this.” And she told me off. But she was probably right.

Idris Elba, Candice Carty-Williams, Kurupt FM Crew, Jessie Ware, Elton John, Zadie Smith, David Beckham, Usain Bolt, Judi Dench, Iggy Pop and Emily Eavis

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
‘The spotlight can scare the shit out of me’: Stormzy speaks out
The all-conquering grime star talks about living in the public eye, a new politics of hope, and why it nearly all went wrong at Glastonbury

Miranda Sawyer

15, Dec, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
The day Stormzy came to work | Eva Wiseman
The music superstar and guest editor caused a sensation when he arrived for his shift at the Observer offices – and he still had time to squeeze in fish and chips

Eva Wiseman

15, Dec, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
'It's a focus for the community': Stormzy takes Jay Rayner to his favourite cafe
For the full flavour of Caribbean food and an insight into his upbringing, the star takes the Observer’s restaurant critic to south London’s Bluejay Cafe

Jay Rayner

14, Dec, 2019 @4:00 PM

Article image
Turning a new page: the rise of #Merky Books
Malorie Blackman sold her life story to them, other hot authors are lining up. What makes Stormzy’s imprint so different?

Kieran Yates

16, Dec, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
Foul play: how racism towards black footballers is moving online
Black footballers are dealing with a rise in vicious abuse on social media. Musa Okwonga finds out why

Musa Okwonga

15, Dec, 2019 @11:00 AM

Article image
Rums of the week: Stormzy’s favourites
An Afro-Caribbean rarity, a spiced delight and others rich and rewarding rums to try this Christmas

David Williams

15, Dec, 2019 @12:00 PM

Article image
Sunday with Little Simz: ‘I want to be inside and cosy’
For the rapper it is all about cleaning, catching up and heading home to her mum’s for dinner

Michael Segalov

15, Dec, 2019 @6:45 AM

Article image
When Jay Rayner met Jeff Goldblum
One is a food critic, the other a Hollywood star ... so what happened when they played jazz together?

Jay Rayner

30, Sep, 2018 @6:00 AM

Article image
Cat Power: 'I didn’t know I loved myself when I was younger'
Erratic stage shows, psychotic breakdowns, rehab… Now a new album and motherhood have given Cat Power a profound sense of calm. She talks to Sophie Heawood

Sophie Heawood

23, Sep, 2018 @7:00 AM

Article image
John Legend: 'The key to happiness is to open your mind to love'
A phenomenally successful singer-songwriter and social justice campaigner, or a preachy virtue-signaller? Ryan Bradley meets John Legend

Ryan Bradley

08, Dec, 2019 @7:00 AM