That the London rapper Stormzy (real name: Michael Ebenezer Owuo Jr.) is an intelligent, serious boy was clear from the start. No foul language and swearing with him, but well-thought-out engagement, with solid bangers as a counterweight.

    That balance, on his European breakthrough album Heavy Is the Head (2019) still perfect, running out a bit disturbed This Is What I Meanhis third and by far most personal album.

    Stormzy (29) has experienced what heartbreak is. This results in touching moments and finds: ‘We didn’t even grow apart, we just fell apart, that’s the saddest part’, he laments in Bad Blood.

    But phew, he puts it hip-hop and makeup-loving part of his supporters are put to the test here. Of the twelve tracks, only the title track is an uncomplicated hip-hop masher; the first half of the album consists of songs that you could call piano ballads, with Stormzy as the remorseful crooner.

    My Presidents Are Black has soul, a rare ‘political’ moment on the album, but after that Stormzy immediately returns to introspective and contemplative work. There is a lot of beauty in it and Stormzy sings well, but you have to be very interested in the man and his feelings to stay focused here.

    From the serious This Is What I Mean getting just as enthusiastic as the two predecessors, that is not easy.

    Stormzy

    This Is What I Mean

    Pop

    ★★★☆☆

    Universal

    What new music has been released and what do the experts at de Volkskrant think of it? Check out our music page with this week’s album, all reviews and the week’s tracks.

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