A true trail blazer with a truly independent spirit, Stormzy will be the worthy recipient of the Innovator Award at this year’s AIM Independent Music Awards on 6th September.
At just 23, South London artist Stormzy has already scooped up two MOBOs, won Best International Artist at the BET Awards, performed on Jools Holland, become the first unsigned rapper to feature on the BBC Sound Of… list, and sold almost a million records. Last year he made history by sending two grime freestyles into the UK chart top 20, in doing so he helped establish the grime scene as a major force in mainstream culture.
The Innovator Award – in association with FUGA – celebrates the achievements of an artist, label or businessperson pushing the boundaries of independent music. AIM Awards host and BBC Radio 1 / 1Xtra presenter MistaJam believes Stormzy fits that description perfectly, “There is no better candidate to win this award than Stormzy. Statistically, creatively, culturally and physically; no other artist has taken the traditional music business model of how to make, market, create, break, tour and monetise a new musical artist and flipped it on its head in the way Stormzy has in the last 24 months. He has forged a new path for his peers to follow AND he’s done it all with no major backing and before his 23rd Birthday! He’s not only set the bar, he’s redefined it.”
The grime scene has always thrived on self-sufficiency, but Stormzy has grasped the potential of modern communication channels and taken it to whole new levels. It’s only two years since the Croydon MC independently released his first EP, “Dreamer’s Disease”, yet he has managed to rack up a top ten hit and tens of millions of online streams and views. With fierce work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit he has forged inventive brand partnerships, become an in demand live act worldwide and now has a regular Friday night show on Beats 1.
It all started with his “Wicked Skengman” freestyle videos, filmed on the streets of his hometown and posted to his YouTube channel. It tapped into the resurgence of grime as a grassroots form in a huge way, and with a growing online following debut EP “Dreamers Disease” soon followed. The promise of the EP was enough to win him a shock invite onto Later With Jools Holland and a MOBO Award in the autumn of 2014. 2015 started exactly how 2014 had finished, as he became the first ever unsigned rapper to make the BBC Sound of… shortlist and was then invited by Kanye to join him onstage at the Brit Awards.
The scene was set for Part 4 of “Wicked Skengman” to go super-viral, with the lead track “Shut Up” ultimately reaching number 8 in the charts in December 2015. Earlier this year he dropped “Scary”, the first taster of his debut album. For many who only know Stormzy as the six foot MC who spits fire on YouTube, his forthcoming debut album may come as something of a pleasant eye opener. He has immersed himself fully in the craft of songwriting and production, gleaned from years growing up on slow jams. Stormzy’s short career personifies the rapid, youthful and groundbreaking rise of the grime scene from underground genre to a leading fixture of the UK music industry.
Stormzy will receive his award alongside Róisín Murphy (Outstanding Contribution) and Richard Russell (Pioneer Award) at The Brewery in Clerkenwell on 6th September. Amongst the nominees in artist categories are Christine and The Queens, Field Music, Flume, Radiohead, Roots Manuva, Skepta and Wolf Alice. The coveted Independent Label Of The Year award will be contested by Because Music, Bella Union, Epitaph/ANTI, Moshi Moshi and Ninja Tune. The event will be hosted by Radio X’s long term champion of new music John Kennedy and BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra’s MistaJam.
With thanks to our sponsor Fuga