British grime MCs Wiley and Stormzy have aired their differences through personal attacks on Twitter and in lyrics heard by millions – but who comes out on top?
Tensions between Wiley, dubbed the “Godfather of Grime”, and the comparative newcomer he has described as an “evolution” of the underground music genre have bubbled over the past year.
At the core of their disagreement is 40-year-old Wiley’s belief that 26-year-old Stormzy has commercialised the genre, partly by collaborating with pop artists like Ed Sheeran.
Wiley, whose real name is Richard Cowie, accused Sheeran of “using grime to look good”, and mocked Stormzy for collaborating with him.
He has also had Twitter spats with rap giants Dizzee Rascal and Skepta.
After his teenage years selling drugs in east London, Wiley had some success in UK garage bands, and helped form music label Boy Better Know, owned by JME and Skepta.
In 2018, he was made an MBE for services to music, and the rapper responded by saying he never thought the royals would know about grime artists.
But while Wiley has had one top hit in the UK charts with Heatwave in 2012, Stormzy topped the charts twice in 2019 alone with Vossi Bop and Take Me Back To London.
He has also scored the first number one single of 2020 with Own It, featuring Sheeran and Burna Boy.
In 2013, Wiley made headlines after cancelling his performance at Glastonbury over the size of his pay packet and the British weather.
The grime pioneer sent an angry tirade of tweets calling the Eavis family festival organisers “tight bastards”.
Last year, Stormzy made headlines at Glastonbury for very different reasons when he became the first British black solo artist to headline the main Pyramid Stage.
A Union Jack stab-proof vest which Stormzy wore during his performance was featured in a shop installation by Banksy.
Stormzy, whose real name is Michael Omari, picked up a Mercury Prize nomination and bags of Mobo Awards in 2019.
He performed at the Brits and MTV EMAs, and his lyrics even made their way into Conservative minister Michael Gove’s tweets in November.
Ranked in 14th place in Heat Magazine’s 2019 list of the richest British celebrities under 30 – which was topped by Sheeran – Stormzy has accrued an estimated worth of £12 million.
The MC, who turned up for a BBC Breakfast interview accidentally wearing slippers on Tuesday, urged fans on social media to vote for Jeremy Corbyn ahead of the election in December.
The Croydon-born rapper has 1.4 million Twitter followers and 2.9 million fans follow him on Instagram, whereas Wiley is followed by 482,300 on Twitter with 413,000 Instagram followers.
Stormzy has started scholarships for two black students to go to Cambridge University.
Wiley, too, has used his platform to appeal to his young fans, and in May 2018 he urged people to put down their weapons amid a sharp increase in knife and gun crime.
The tensions between the two headline-making MCs have escalated over the past few days and show no sign of letting up.