Why Stormzy’s “Mel Made Me Do It” Is An Instant Rap Classic

Words: Yemi Abiade

Yes, it’s a classic. Already. I don’t make the rules; they’ve been mandated by Stormzy because it’s his game and we’re all just players in it. We didn’t know it was coming but on an innocuous Thursday night, the indomitable South Londoner set his stool out for the future on new drop “Mel Made Me Do It”, named after his stylist Melissa’s Wardrobe, a release so dazzling in scope and ambition that the collective heads of the entire scene are still spinning in disbelief. We weren’t ready. Hard at work on his third studio album, his re-entry to the game has been felt with the quickness.

Forget who he might be subbing for a second, forget the bravado. Strip the track down to its basics and deep the elegance on show. In seven minutes, over Knox Brown’s meticulous production, Stormzy barely breaks a sweat as he runs roughshod on the game with his undeniable aura. Seven minutes of very unhumble brags—from sharing a gym with the actual heir to the throne, Prince William, to boasting a £20,000 shower head—it gets like that when you’re Big Mikey.

Kicking off with the voice of his own mother’s pledge to never fly economy class, via Stylo G’s thrilling cameo, Stormzy is flexing on us mere mortals, dropping literal M’s on our head by hosting our girls on a private boat in Dubai, selling out the O2 Arena three nights in a row and copping a Rolls Royce and Lamborghini—just because. Elite, upper-echelon raps, memorable bars in abundance (“Still dripping in finesse/Man, I got figures and flows, I’m a different kind of F”, hello!), seamless flows and endless charisma, it’s all packed in here. Confidence has never been a problem for Stormzy, a trait as natural to him as his high tax bracket rhymes in the present day. But this is supreme confidence from a man who has given the scene so much in a short time, basking in his own glory and smothering us with success. If Twitter was the only barometer to go by, the message was clear: we all want to be Stormzy when we grow up.

And then there’s the video. A beautifully-shot visual from KLVDR, it’s an instant replay, but watching it back you start to notice the details: Louis Theroux reciting a bar to show he’s down with the kids; Melissa’s Wardrobe, subject of the track’s title, lint-rolling Stormzy’s lime green Botega jacket; Usain Bolt, an intrigued onlooker to Stormzy’s greatness; the hood’s favourite football manager, Jose Mourinho, pulling up and pushing a finger to his lips. The stops were pulled, and Michael Omari made it look easy. Ten minutes almost didn’t feel all that long with the way it was stunningly mapped out.

Gathering so many of our heroes across music, sport, fashion, broadcasting and literature to the tune of Michaela Coel’s beautiful spoken word piece written by Wretch 32, “Mel Made Me Do It” carves out a meandering line of Black British history, created by us and for us. By placing Headie One, Jme and Megaman in one scene, their respective genres—drill, grime and garage—are deliberately visible markers for eras and generations. The past of broadcasting (Jenny Francis) to the future (No Signal) and the respective heads of GRM Daily, Link Up TV and SBTV (repped by the late Jamal Edwards’ mother, Brenda Edwards) place emphasis on every aspect of the journey, because it got us here. The beauty of all these figures dressed in all white, gathered around Stormzy—white umbrellas in-hand—stops you in your tracks. This is Black excellence, made possible by the graft and ingenuity of those who walked before us. The word ‘inspirational’ has been thrown around as the pundits take this in, and rightly so, because Stormzy understands his role as an extension of the culture, presenting ourselves to ourselves. He tells us we should be proud of ourselves and shouldn’t settle for less than what is ours.

“Mel Made Me Do It” isn’t just an instant classic for musical reasons—on that front, it’s a 100 out of 10. But it also lays out the Black British experience with the same level of finesse as the track itself. He sees our power, just like he sees the power of those who came before him. He’s given us a time capsule for us to pick up when we want to flex, when we want to be prideful, when we want to make history. This track will be remembered by our children and their youts. It will be cited in future essays and literature charting what it means to be Black and British. It will inspire the next would-be game-changers in the scene to come with their own sauce and change the landscape, ringing true Wretch & Coel’s weighty words when the latter states: “This isn’t a phase. This is phase one.” Black excellence doesn’t end here—it expands and burns like an Olympic flame, passed down from one generation to the next. Stormzy is the torchbearer now, carrying our history and our future on his shoulders.

“This isn’t a phase. This is phase one.”

Posted on September 26, 2022