Stormzy becomes first black British solo artist to headline Glastonbury

28 June 2019, 23:24 | Updated: 29 June 2019, 13:13

Making history as the first black British solo artist to headline Glastonbury, rapper Stormzy told crowds "Glasto, it's only the f****** beginning".

The 25-year-old grime star used his performance to highlight racism in the arts, racial profiling, knife crime and politics, as he was joined on stage by Coldplay frontman Chris Martin and fellow rappers Dave and Fredo.

In an impassioned moment on one of the most-watched stages in the world, the rapper kicked off his historic headline slot by wearing what appeared to be a stab vest emblazoned with a Union Jack.

"This is the most legendary night of my entire life," he told the crowd.

He began his set with a video featuring Jay-Z before taking to the stage to perform his 2015 track Know Me From.

He referenced the work of politicians he admires, sampling a speech by Labour MP David Lammy, who responded by tweeting: "Stormzy using his headline spot at #glastonburyfestival2019 to speak out about the injustice of young black kids being criminalised in a biased and disproportionate justice system. Humbled and inspired that he sampled my speech. Salute #Merky."

During his song Don't Cry For Me, two ballet dancers joined the stage in a "beautifully moving" performance. Behind them on a screen were words which described how ballet shoes were not traditionally been made to match black skin tones until recently.

"Now there are ballet shoes to match all skin tones - a huge leap forward for inclusion in the ballet world," the text added.

Another notable moment was when Stormzy detailed artists that had "paved the way" for him. He then name-checked numerous grime artists he is now supporting.

A gospel choir joined Stormzy for his song Blinded By Your Grace and he performed his hit single Vossi Bop to the delight of thousands of fans which joined him in his chanting of "f*** the government and f*** Boris".

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Before the performance, Stormzy tweeted how he was "overwhelmed with emotions" to be "the second-youngest solo act to ever headline Glastonbury, the youngest being a 24-year-old David Bowie in 1971."

Just hours before his performance, he said it was the "most surreal feeling I've ever experienced".

If there's one man who understands how mixing politics and pop goes down well at Glastonbury, it's singer and activist Billy Bragg.

Speaking backstage at the Leftfield tent, the festival regular said he still believes that "the power of music is in calling out politicians".

"There are some communities who are still marginalised, who don't get access to the mainstream media and black men are one of those.

"Which is why Stormzy is having to make great music in order to get onto our timelines.

"The only thing that group has is music to get in our faces and I think that's why both grime, and drill particularly, still has so much edge to it."

Glastonbury has always been a safe haven for political dissent but there's one name this year that's no longer on the line-up - punk-rave band Killdren.

They were booked to play on one of the festival's smaller stages when their song 'Kill Tory Scum' was picked up on by a number of newspapers and they were quickly dropped from the bill.

The Jo Cox Foundation described its language as "completely abhorrent".

Killdren accused the bookers of Glastonbury's Shangri-La stage of "buckling under pressure from the right-wing media".

Dan Stubbs, deputy editor of the NME, isn't convinced it was the right decision.

"I think its a microcosm of a much bigger issue at the moment and it's very difficult for everyone.

"I was here when Glastonbury did the tribute to Jo Cox, but it is censorship and it's difficult because the song is clearly not wanting anyone to do it.

"It's satire, it's a silly song, they don't take themselves too seriously.

"The decision kind of goes against the long-running lefty ethos of Glastonbury and it's a bit worrying when they take bands off line-ups because something might not be quite phrased right."

But Stormzy's standout performance showed Glastonbury doesn't have an issue with artists who have plenty to say about politics.

How seriously an artist is taken all comes down to how they say it.

And in the grime star's case, on Friday night the whole of the festival - and even those in politics - were captivated.