For the last few years, Stormzy has sat as the figurehead for the British grime movement. Even before he released his breakthrough debut LP 'Gang Signs & Prayer' in 2017, he was already riding a wave of exponential love and affection that has since carried him throughout his career, resulting in headline performances at both Glastonbury and Reading & Leeds, and the accomplished follow-up record 'Heavy Is The Head' in 2019. But for his third studio album 'This Is What I Mean', it feels like he is ready to let go of his former self and grow into something far more interesting.
From the very start, 'This Is What I Mean' never really fits the mould of what we expect a Stormzy release to sound like. While he has still been dropping the odd heavy anthem around this new collection, the full-length itself places his direction in a more R&B-laden direction, adopting a sombre heartfelt aesthetic throughout. While there is still the odd moment of bold and exciting flair dabbled within, it still feels far more refrained to what he made his name with in the past. In all, Stormzy has rounded his harder edges this time around in pursuit of something that strikes closer to the heart.
Although it does feel like a strong veer away from his traditional sound, Stormzy has always had this gospel appeal to his work, and is something he is throwing more energy towards on this one. 'This Is What I Mean' lacks the energetic club belters, but feels like a strong step forward in his musical evolution to date.