Stormzy ‘extremely blessed’ to receive honorary degree from University of Exeter

The grime artist shared advice with the class of 2020 graduating after the pandemic.

21 June 2022

Musician Stormzy has said he is “extremely blessed and grateful” to receive an honorary degree from the University of Exeter.

During his graduation speech on Tuesday, he said people should “always share and support, uplift and help in whatever capacity we are able”.

The grime superstar received the honour in recognition of his “outstanding achievement in the field of higher education, philanthropy and widening participation”.

The 28-year-old rapper had his fellow graduates laughing when he joked: “I am going up in the world. I am a philanthropist now.”

He said: “I used to really reject the honours and applause that come with something I genuinely believe was just a part of my purpose … the famous analogy I have always used is likening it to one of your mates popping to the shop and grabbing a couple of bags of crisps and a few bottles of Lucozade for all the boys.

“Of course it is a kind gesture, but it doesn’t deserve a song and a dance because that’s just what you do for your loved ones.

“I have been so richly blessed by God and I don’t just mean financially, I mean with love and life and family and joy, and with peace and with purpose, so, to put it simply, I bear the fruit and I share fruit and, without sounding too fantastical, that’s just what we’re meant to do in whatever way we can.

“Some of our destinies is to save one life, some of us are destined to build nations and schools, some of us will focus on raising our families and those closest to us, some of us will help our local community, some of us will help the neighbour next door, some of us will help the world, some of us will help a friend.

“My point being that we should always share and support, uplift and help in whatever capacity we are able too. All of these different sizes and levels of being a helping hand are all beautiful and all of them are just as powerful as each other.

Stormzy Christmas party
Stormzy on stage during A Very Merky Christmas, the first ever Christmas party held by Stormzy’s charity, Merky Foundation (Aaron Chown/PA)

“Just as long as you’re doing what you can … I pray that these words give you a bit of encouragement for you to go and be who you’re destined to be and to share some fruit once you bear some.”

The rapper, whose real name is Michael Ebenezer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr, set up the #Merky Foundation in 2020 and has gone on to pledge millions to tackle racial inequality, justice reform and black empowerment in the UK.

The award-winning grime artist began providing scholarships for black students at the University of Cambridge in a bid to address the relatively low number of black students who attend Oxbridge institutions.

Last year, a new philanthropic partnership between HSBC UK and the #Merky Foundation was set up to ensure a further 30 “Stormzy Scholars” are funded over the next three years covering tuition fees and maintenance costs.

During his graduation speech on Tuesday, Stormzy said: “I feel extremely blessed and grateful to be up here receiving this honorary degree.

Mercury Prize nominations 2020
Front cover of Stormzy’s album Heavy Is The Head (PA)

“The journey I took to get to this moment has been considerably different to you guys, you guys had the guts, the grit and the determination that it takes to study for years and finish a degree. Whereas I got my AS results in the first year of college and ‘said see ya later’.

“A year later I took another swing at my A-levels at a different college until I sat down for my first English exam in January and walked out after 10 minutes.

“It took a hell of a lot for you guys to get here today, your journeys to get to this moment were hard-fought, the road you took was not easy, and this is coming from someone who tried to walk that exact same road and failed.

“So, from the bottom of my heart I say congratulations, well done, you should all be so proud of yourselves, what you have achieved is incredible, don’t let anybody downplay it, don’t let anybody undermine it.

“If you’re sat in this room today, you’re worthy and you’re brilliant.”

Stormzy said he could not finish his speech without giving a “shout-out” to his mum who was sitting in the crowd.

“It’s always been her biggest dream for me to go to university and graduate and then become somebody so this moment is a real full-circle one,” he added.

The ceremony saw graduates who finished their degree in 2020 celebrating their achievements after the pandemic placed a stop on graduation ceremonies over the past two years.

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