Stormzy gave our BIMM London Songwriting, Popular Music Performance and Music Production Diploma students an incredible surprise when he arrived at BIMM London on Thursday (29.11.18).
Our tutors succeeded in keeping Stormzy’s visit under wraps, but students knew something special was happening when they spotted security guards around the Fulham campus sealing off the ground floor corridor. It was like a state visit with the arrival of Stormzy and his entourage – indeed, the artist is regarded as ‘grime royalty’ having been the first rapper to score a number one with a grime album.
When our students had sat down to discuss DIY artists as part of their class, none of them imagined Stormzy and comedian Mo Gilligan would walk through the door during the session. The revered MC was on fine form and was all too happy to share lots of sage advice during this secret Q&A.
Despite his accolades (two BRITs and BBC Music Award gong) and the success of Gang Signs & Prayer, Stormzy said he still has a lot to learn about songwriting. Much to the delight of our students, the down-to-earth grime star was impressed to hear about the rise of songwriting and production courses, having had no formal training himself.
One of the production students asked if attending somewhere like BIMM would have changed things for him:
“I didn’t know you could learn songwriting and production. That’s incredible!” he told the crowd. ” I would have loved the songwriting course; it would have really helped. As much I can write a song, this is new territory to me.”
“There are times in the studio when I’ve got an idea, and I want to record it, but I don’t know what to press; little things like that. When I was in the studio with Jess Glynne, they talked about the middle eight, and I didn’t know what that was, I didn’t know about a pre-hook! I wouldn’t have been aware that putting that lyric before my hook adds a certain power to my music.”
Stormzy spoke about his a love-hate relationship with social media and remarked that a lot of people don’t use it properly. He gave examples of Adele, Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar not using it, yet being successful but he admitted needing social media, as it’s a part of his life. “As an artist, you have to be careful, just get the balance right, if you’re on your phone, you’re not looking around.”
He also hinted that anyone could make a beat for him (including our students) one day. “If someone plays me a beat tomorrow and I love it, I’m going to vocal that beat. I don’t care where he’s from, if the beat’s cold, I want that beat.” he said. “Make music your language, so when you press play, you have the confidence to say Stormz I’ve got beats.”
He then talked about his long-term relationship with his manager, Toby. “My manager is my right-hand man in terms of what we are doing in the world of Stormzy. He’s one of my childhood friends; he is really intelligent, really savvy and was adaptable enough to become this incredible manager. We’ve always had that yin and yang. Our management relationship is a very rare case – that’s fairy-tale stuff but it doesn’t always go that way.”
The biggest revelation of the afternoon was hearing Stormzy talk about his debut album and how writing it was one the biggest challenges of his career. “As a musician, I was spitting, I was making songs, making videos and then it was, okay, make an album now,” he told students. “At first, it was really difficult trying to build that confidence.”
Those students present included Orlando Giannini, who said he heard the MC was in London but had never expected him to turn up to his class; and Lagioia Rogantini, who will sing Stormzy’s Blinded By Your Grace with the BIMM Choir at the End of Term gig.
An excited Lagioia said: “He had a great attitude and advice. I loved his advice like ‘stay grounded, be yourself’ that’s the most important thing I think in the music industry.”
Production students Nas and Nick were amongst those who were invited along to the launch of ‘adidas Originals by Stormzy,’ his new range.
They spoke to BIMM ahead of the launch. Nas said, “I’m not gonna lie, I’m pretty gassed that he was there. I really appreciated the fact that BIMM is allowing us to have these opportunities. it was amazing!”
Nick originally from Boston USA: “When we have an opportunity to speak to a real industry professional, it’s phenomenal and to be able to have that instant feedback. It was a very nice surprise.”
Stormzy’s honesty and candid accounts summed up his time at BIMM London. We were delighted to welcome him to BIMM, and we’ve no doubt he’ll be receiving a few beats and collaboration requests from our Songwriting, Performance and Production Diploma students.
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