As big-eyed with appreciation as he was when his authoritative voice and frenzied intensity were being applied, Stormzy (born Michael Omari), the towering South London emcee, took his headlining tour to The Echo for its Los Angeles debut last Wednesday night. In a city often defined for its laid-back demeanor, such indifference was absent from the packed room as the budding sensation of grime, UK’s darker fusion of garage, hip-hop and dancehall, performed under the venue’s dim lights after alternative hip-hop artist Lizzo and LA electronic duo Kauf kicked things off.
A fiery congregation chanted lyric after lyric from Stormzy’s catalog before he even took the stage as part of Red Bull’s Sound Select series. Once Stormzy did, wrapped in a grey adidas sweat suit and camera flash, he elevated an energized crew that was full of life, flexing his muscle for hundreds of jumping spectators with thunderous tracks like “Standard” before briefly slowing the tempo during “10 Minutes”, a determined and sharp memo about what sets him apart from his rapping counterparts over the soulful score of The Game’s “100”.
However, that break in tempo would be short-lived, as the fourth quarter of his hour-long set introduced his huge, pulsating freestyle anthems. A now-shirtless Stormzy, fully entrenched in sweat and his element, madly ran through catchy fan favorites like “Know Me From” and “Shut Up”. How can you be better than Stormzy? In roaring unison with his supporters, new and old, he simply told his doubters to “shut up!” — fearless advice from the 22-year-old that is becoming harder to ignore with each one of his successful tour stops across the U.S.