[book report] Rise Up: The #Merky Story So Far

I’m a fan of Stormzy. I remember seeing the ‘Shut Up’ freestyle on YouTube. All aggression, Adidas and lyrics. I loved it. Which was actually more surprising than you might think as I never really liked Grime — the only artist I ever really rated was Kano. My tastes too ingrained in that NYC version of rap.

‘Gang Signs and Prayers’ was a total surprise of an album — such a broad range of styles and maturity it really did deserve all the praise it got and I listen to it pretty regularly months later.

This book is as much as a surprise as that album really — though not destined to be revisited or considered a classic…in any way.

It is a bit of a curiosity really. Not an autobiography or even really a business book — instead it is basically an oral history of the last four years of ‘Team #Merky’ — a team of close confidants who surround Stormzy and help make his broader ambitions reality — while maintaining their independence from the big labels etc. Many of them are people he grew up with or around who he took a chance on (like his manager — who sounds like a great guy — but who was doing a graduate gig at Land Rover before he took the job with zero experience in show business) or relatively inexperienced people he just clicked with when he realised they shared his work ethic and approach.

There are also a bunch of more established ‘team members’ who held roles at big brands, radio stations/Spotify and record labels who supported and championed him coming up.

I listened to the audiobook and it was quite an odd experience — more like an extended podcast than a book. All the members of team contribute their stories and narrate their own sections. It wasn’t easy to keep track of who was speaking to be honest. Also some contributors add significantly more to the story than others.

All that said with some reservations I really did enjoy it — it provides an interesting insight into an amazing journey. The teams absolute faith in Stormzy comes through constantly but also does his total trust in his team. They really come across as a pretty unique unit — though there is also clearly a fair bit unsaid as it is strongly hinted that Stormzy is a hard task-master and really doesn’t suffer fools (or really any disappointment).

It is interesting that the only artists he seems to compare himself to in the ‘book’ are Jay-Z and Beyonce and it all left me thinking of this line →

“I’m not a businessman/I’m a business, man” Jay-Z

I do think there is a much more interesting book to come from Stormzy — his use of his fame to poke the establishment (book labels, scholarships at Cambridge, campaigning about Grenfell) show that there is more to him than most people in his position and the next chapter of his life should be worth watching (and hopefully reading about).

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