How the faces in Stormzy’s new video shaped Black British culture
The London MC features a strong roster of shapeshifters in his visuals for ‘Mel Made Me Do It’ – here are the names you need to know
Friday 23 September 2022 By Kemi Alemoru
Last night, Stormzy marked his big return with a music video that set social media ablaze. The 10-minute visuals for ‘Mel Made Me Do It’ – a track named after his stylist and fashion influencer, Melissa Holdbrook-Akopose – garnered attention not just for the track’s flair, featuring whip-smart lyricism, expert flows and brashy boasts, but also due to the illustrious cast he chose to include in the video.
During the spoken word poetry recited by Michaela Coel (of Chewing Gum and I May Destroy You fame), she proclaims, ‘I need to remind you that this is not a phase. This is phase one’, as faces from Black British pop culture, past and present, pose clad in all white. The message is clear: as Stormzy’s star rises, he wants to use his platform to spotlight the endless capabilities of his community. So, as he celebrates the movers and shakers of Black British culture as we know it today, we’ve listed all the names you need to know – and why.
‘Get you a bestie that names his comeback after you,’ wrote Melissa Holdbrook-Akopose on her Instagram after the video’s release. The 31-year-old has also worked with Anthony Joshua and has gained a following of 281k on Instagram for her glamorous and colourful looks. Her beauty, homeware and fashion recommendations often lead to items selling out as her heavily influenced audience post their purchases with the hashtag #MelMadeMeDoIt, which is where the song’s title came from. The celebrity stylist is responsible for the 14 looks on display in the video and has also been the rapper’s personal stylist for a couple of years.
In an emotional tribute to the late SBTV founder, Jamal Edwards, who died earlier this year, Stormzy included his mother Brenda in the music video. She appears next to a framed black and white image of her son. It makes sense that he would be visible in a rap visual that highlights a line-up of Black British cultural icons given Jamal’s mammoth cultural impact on urban music.
Stormzy is embracing the fashion world, as his stylist told GQ after he debuted his bespoke Met Gala look by Burberry that his personal style has entered a ‘transitional era’. So while ‘Mel Made Me Do It’ features a wide array of entertainers, he’s also given a platform to Clint who is at the helm of London-based streetwear brand CRTZ (Corteiz). It’s enjoyed a lot of fanfare over the past couple of years, with its pared-back looks with bold lettering selling out within minutes.
The brand also went viral in January for a jacket swap event that saw hypebeasts swap Supreme, The North Face and Stüssy looks for the new CRTZ Bolo jacket. Last year, Stormzy wore a tee from the brand during his performances at both Reading and Parklife, and Virgil Abloh wore his socks to the 2012 Met Gala. In fact, before Louis Vuitton’s former creative director passed away, he spoke to Sneeze, a skate magazine, about Corteiz saying that its rise was ‘inevitable’.
No Signal FM (Taja Boodie, Huda Ahmed, RBC (Anthony Ewetade), Jojo Sonubi, David Sonubi)
Jojo Sonubi has been reinvigorating Black British nightlife via Recess for years, but when lockdown hit the opportunity to party virtually disappeared. In response, he created No Signal with his brother David and the NS10v10 song battle format attracted more than one million listeners per show. Now, the team has grown and No Signal has also headed back outside with its popular Diaspora Dance events.
Someone who is well on their way to becoming one of the most recognisable voices in British media is 27-year-old Henrie Kwushue. At the heart of her broadcast work is a love of Black culture, boosting the profile of rising artists and issues that speak to her community.
She kept Black Brits entertained during our darkest lockdown days over on No Signal radio, launched her own web series about London gentrification called Is Your Area Changing?, and has since appeared on Kiss FM and Spotify podcasts via a joint podcast with the hilarious Harry Pinero, Who We Be. In the past year, she’s topped the Dazed 100, graced the cover of Guap, and been the face of commercial partnerships with gal-dem and adidas, as well as Wonderland.
Jade LB (aka Keisha The Sket)
Finally, we see the face of Jade LB, a writer who gained notoriety in her teen years for a viral story of sex and violence in the noughties entitled Keisha The Sket. For many Black millennials (particularly those who grew up in London), the project is a formative memory as is essentially modern-day canon. Stormzy’s publishing imprint, #Merky Books, rebooted the tale with a literary release last year to pay homage to the story and its previously anonymous writer.
Starring alongside Jonathan Ross on an imaginary talk show, Zeze Mills plays quite a prominent role in the video. She has a weekly YouTube show where she interviews rising talent in the industry, as well as the characters behind viral stories like SPAC Nation’s Pastor Tobi. In recent years she’s branched out into mainstream television, fronting Channel 4’s late-night topical talk show Unapologetic alongside Yinka Bokinni, which was billed as an open forum for guests to explore their identity without having to hold back.