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The reason why Stormzy turned down a collaboration with Jay-Z

Stormzy is the most successful rapper that Britain has ever produced and the only one to have ever revel in the honour of headlining the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival. In fact, only two rappers have had that privilege in history, and the other is Jay-Z.

Londoner Stormzy grew up idolising Jay-Z, and as he’s become the face of British rap over the last few years, managing to capture the attention of his hero in the process. However, when the chance arose for the two artists to work together, ‘Big Mike’ decided that the track wasn’t right, in a supremely bold move, told ‘Hova’ that he wouldn’t appear on the song.

Ed Sheeran is the one who brokered the deal. After all, he’s arguably the most successful artist on the planet, and with that comes great power. For his 2019 mixtape, No.6 Collaborations Project, Sheeran collaborated with everyone from Bruno Mars to Chance The Rapper to Justin Bieber. However, Jay-Z was supposed to appear too alongside Stormzy on ‘Take Me Back To London’.

Explaining why the track with Jay-Z never came to fruition, Stormzy said while appearing on The Jonathan Ross Show: “We were all in the studio writing; me, Ed Sheeran and Jay-Z. Before that, I loved ‘Take Me Back To London’ because I thought it was just going to be me and Ed, and then Ed was like, ‘Jay is getting on it.’

“It blew my mind. Jay-Z is my number one hero inspiration. We got into the studio, and we were writing for this song, and then he just stops the music, and he said, ‘Tell me about London, I need some inspiration.'”

Stormzy then noted how he spoke about London, which led to “this powerful, beautiful, greatest conversation of my entire life”. The rapper added, “At the end, he’s smiling, we were probably talking for an hour, and he goes, ‘So what do you think of the song?’… I had verbal diarrhoea.”

Adding: “I was like, ‘I love this song, but you being on the song changes everything.’ ‘Take Me Back To London’ with me and Ed is one thing, but now that Jay-Z is on it. This is Jay-Z and Stormzy, what he means to culture, what I mean to culture, I said, ‘Is this the song?’ I didn’t think it was the song.” 

Furthermore, Stormzy gushed about how Jay was “super proud and super shocked and taken aback by the fact that this kid told him”.

While Ed Sheeran had no qualms about getting Hov on ‘Take Me Back To London’, despite the rapper having no ties to the city, that shouldn’t be a surprise considering the singer wrote a fictionalised song called ‘Galway Girl’ purely for the American-Irish market.

However, Stormzy is an artist with true integrity, and he couldn’t get behind a project like this which felt slightly hollow. He believes that one day his paths will cross again with Jay, and when it does, he’ll make sure that it’s special.