There’s something mesmeric about the music video for Stormzy’s ‘Mel Made Me Do It’ – a word I don’t use lightly. With cameo after cameo, scene after scene, merging together with the very slickest of camera techniques, it’s hard to be distracted by anything else throughout its near-11-minute runtime.
Three years might not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of things, but in a world of instantaneous demand, it can feel like an age. Especially for a star like Stormzy, whose last solo work came with 2019’s Heavy Is The Head.
So if he wanted to make an impactful return, he’s certainly done the job.
Indeed, heavy is the head that wears the crown, but what Stormzy’s latest offering does is present a king with all his powers, able to bring up a featured icon seemingly at the command of his word. “I’ve been the GOAT for so long I guess it’s not exciting when I win,” he spits on his first verse. Yet this triumph is most definitely a win and puts him on a new plane, as we gear up for his third album, confirmed for release later this year.
But just what are the mechanics that makes it work so well?
Who features in the ‘Mel Made Me Do It’ video?
No doubt the most eye-catching, trendworthy aspect of the video is its list of cameos. Not just the names, but the sheer number.
Usain Bolt, the first recognisable face, turns on the TV to then provide us a raft of other big names, as a fake TV show hosted by Jonathan Ross and Zeze Mills sees Stormzy join guests Dina Asher-Smith and Louis Theroux – the latter having made his own foray into music this year with his Duke & Jones ‘Jiggle Jiggle’ collab. Theroux even shares a line with Stormzy, reiterating “I think the kids call it no cappin’”.
Then, of course, there’s José Mourinho. The Portuguese gaffer has given many memorable quips over the years, since he burst onto the scene referring to himself as ‘The Special One’. One such line came after Chelsea’s 1-nil defeat to Aston Villa in 2014, where he remained tight-lipped over some dubious refereeing decisions, opting to say: “I prefer really not to, not to speak. If I speak I am in, in big trouble.”
And that same closemouthed response warranted a finger over the lips from both Mourinho and Stormzy, the rapper saying, “I prefer not to speak like I’m José”. A power move, it also tells their detractors to pipe down.
Stylo G’s two-lined guest verse adds a brief extra flair with his Jamaican patois. Then, a brief pause from all the commotion, as a slow-mo scene hones in on Melissa Holdbrook Akposoe – the beauty entrepreneur and stylist to Stormzy, among a handful of other celebrities, whose tagline the song is named after.
Her dusting down of Stormzy seemingly preps him for the video’s real statement, which comes two-thirds in and offers a flurry of features, each one warranting a shoutout in their own right, over a monologue which itself was penned by Wretch 32 and spoken by Michaela Coel.
Soul II Soul legend Jazzie B. Trevor Nelson. Dave. Little Simz. Gabrielle. You have the list above. What’s so potent is the balance of the elder statesmen and women with more contemporary British stars, as well as those involved being beyond the remit of just music – touching on football with Ian Wright and literature with Malorie Blackman, for instance. All in all, it’s a scene that celebrates black excellence, and equally pays tribute to the late, great Jamal Edwards, as his family members hold his image.
‘Mel Made Me Do It’ Lyrics
Lyrically, there’s inevitably reams to digest – and any kind of deep analysis would warrant an article (if not an essay) in itself. But let’s just breakdown some key moments, which toe the line between the brash and the empowered.
In fact, the opening intro sets this tone. By featuring a pre-recorded message from Stormzy’s mum, Abigail Owuo, complaining that she won’t fly economy simply because “My son is Stormzy”, there’s both an authenticity and a conviction in the rapper’s stardom.
And just like the cameos alone, there’s a litany of famous references – from Aubameyang to Biden, Jet Li to Lauryn Hill. Stormzy makes no bones about where he feels he belongs, relishing his prowess in a playful way, as summed up by the fact he could even “fuck around and bring Adele out” at one of his shows, simply because he can.
There’s a circularity to the track as a whole, too. By ending with the line “I’ve been the G.O.A.T for so long that they never hype a ni**a up / So I guess I gotta do it to myself, boy”, it acts as a knowing call-and-response to his opening “I’ve been the GOAT for so long” remark. In doing so, after all those verses and featured appearances, it’s nigh impossible to say his “GOAT” claim isn’t warranted.
The beat and production
The beat is cleverly crafted. Produced by GRAMMY award-winning Knox Brown, who’s worked with the likes of Beyoncé and Mary J. Blige, it’s both bass-heavy and chilling, with slightly warped strings giving a jittery feel. Much like Stormzy’s lyrics, there’s a sense of intention and thudding forwards progression.
The camera techniques and third-person effect
There’s numerous moments that are somewhat meta throughout the video, not least the fake talk show. At one stage, Stormzy interrupts himself after the line “I put her on a jet if her p***y, wait–”, because he realises his “nephews are listening”.
This is enhanced by the video, which cuts to the homely setting of his surprised family. As Stormzy raps in front of himself, we’re let into his heady world and, suddenly, his boastful statements seem more than warranted for someone in the limelight as much as he is.
This self-referential quality even cuts so deep that at one point it’s as if we’re let backstage into the recording process, as Stormzy dons a yellow Prada jacket, spitting his verses in what appears to be a home studio. Such nifty tricks from director KLVDR breaks down the barrier between fan and artist, which becomes a remarkable prospect when so many then subsequently appear. We’re let into the world of the rap star and are desperate to follow his every move.
In closing the video with a shot of Stormzy sitting in the theatre seats – as violinists play in the background – we’re presented with the same circularity as the lyrics. Stormzy is the GOAT and deserves to sit there and take it in – maybe even watching his own video on the big screen in front of him.
Stormzy rose to prominence, of course, by the massive hit ‘Shut Up’, which itself worked its way into the spotlight from a simple 2015 YouTube video. ‘Mel Made Me Do It’ is something that puts him on a whole new paradigm, all the while maintaining his sharp, dexterous lyricism at the forefront.
Some fans have already started to label the video a ‘masterpiece’. Those are strong words that deserve to be treated with respect. But, in truth, I don’t disagree.