You don’t need me to sit here and quote Stormzy punchlines back to you. By now, you’ve probably seen lyrics ripped from his latest single “Vossi Bop” and jammed into enough Insta captions and/or hastily edited Hinge bios. And fair enough. It’s the south London rapper’s first new one since 2017, a clap-directly-in-your-eyeline wakeup call of silly bars, hard production and a slick, choreo-led video (directed by Henry Scholfield, of Dua Lipa, Rosalía and Billie Eilish clips) to match. If you did manage to miss its release last Friday, have a look below:
Right then, onto the real matter at hand. “Vossi Bop” could be Stormzy’s first-ever UK number 1 single, at the end of this week. Normally, the top 5 chart positions look like a mess of boring guitar lads, slightly older guitar guys forging comebacks, Clean Bandit, very cleverly orchestrated pop collabs between two major label acts who probably aren’t friends but got on a track together after a couple of really productive conference calls and then someone from the US who breaks through on a viral hit that crosses the Atlantic figuratively via whatever social network drove it (TikTok and Lil Nas X, what's good; still a complete banger).
It's surprising to learn that Stormzy's never had a number 1 single. After all, his 2017 debut Gang Signs & Prayer topped the album charts, buoyed by a PR campaign so well-run that now I can turn to my 64-year-old aunt over lunch and (rightfully) expect her to recognise Stormzy’s name, though she’s probably not actively played any of his music. Now, though, is the time for us to blast “Vossi Bop.” It’s time to not only stream it but to buy it, too – please dust off your iTunes or Amazon Music passwords accordingly. And that’s because Stormzy’s up against Taylor Swift (with her dire Brendon Urie collab “ME!”) for that number 1 spot, with a reported 500 or so sales between them.
Swift’s fans notoriously support her through digital downloads (as in paying for music to own, rather than streaming it). The UK charts system still grants more weight to sales over streams, though, so it’s time to show up for Stormzy. The way things work now, 100 streams would be equivalent to walking to a shop (ha!) and buying a physical CD single (haha!) – but that’s only if you’re paying for the streaming service in question. If you’re able to tolerate ads blaring between every few songs, then the Official Charts Company (as per a January 2019 document) only counts 600 streams as one purchase. In both cases, the ratio doubles (from 200 and 1200 streams, respectively) if the song's been falling further down the charts for three straight weeks. It’s… truly wild, and quite dry and technical but at least some progress. It took until 2014 for streams to factor into the UK charts at all, with video streams added in summer 2018.
So look, Stormzy deserves this. He's worked incredibly hard to get to the point where he now tucks a number 1 album, book imprint, uni scholarship for black undergraduates and major-label imprint under his belt. Adding a number 1 single to that list wouldn't hurt, especially for a song this strong (he's been sitting on it for three or four years and it still goes). Placed side-by-side with Swift Greatest Showman-core, "Vossi Bop" feels like more of a deftly created full package, from his Twitter 'announcement' of the track itself to the vertigo-inducing movement Scholfield pulls off in the video. And yes, if you feel so inclined, add his lyrics to whichever social media profile you care about most this week – I won't hold it against you.
You can find Tshepo on Twitter.