Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer
Written by Corey Fuller // Twitter @cjames4_
I’ve been studying in London for a few months now and coming in, Skepta was the main Grime artist I was familiar with. The obvious Drake connection was there and I was familiar with the genre, but when Croydon emcee Stormzy dropped an incredible project in Gang Signs and Prayer, I knew it was something special.
Seeing the album art scattered across the walls of the London Underground and even meeting Stormzy himself at a meet and greet in London, the promotion was very strong for the album before it even came out. While we knew tracks like “Big For Your Boots” and “Shut Up” were going to be on the tape, no one had any idea we were going to see the lighter and brighter side of Big Mike.
Stormzy‘s debut album could be one of the most impressive debut albums for a Grime superstar in recent memory. With GSAP, Stormzy effectively creates the perfect masterpiece as he wonderfully juxtaposes gangster street culture with almost gospel-sounding records about his family and private life.
Standout tracks like “Blinded by Your Grace Pt. 2” (which, in my opinion, could possibly be the best song ever made by the way) and “100 Bags” prove that Stormzy can do more than just spit bars over an electric beat. In fact, he even humorously harmonizes the words “Man thought that Stormzy couldn’t sing” before an eventual chuckle at the end of “Velvet/Jenny Francis.”
This proves to be true as Stormzy uses his pleasant and soothing singing voice to create uplifting and soul-warming tunes like “21 Gun Salute” with Wretch 32 and “Don’t Cry For Me” with Raleigh Ritchie. With tracks like this, it brings a new kind of feel to a Grime genre that has never really experimented with R&B influence.
With records like these which are scattered throughout the LP (“Cigarettes & Cush” and “Lay Me Bare” are two more), it proves Stormzy has really done something incredible with this album in terms of pushing the genre of London Grime forward. Diverting solely from the obvious bass-heavy beats and rap-battle type lyrics, he introduces a new kind of style into the scene.
With this being said, it’s important to note he still has bars on this album and he can still fire off lyrics like any other emcee. Tracks like “Cold” and “Return of the Rucksack” find Stormzy proving he can rap with the top tier of emcees.
With Gang Signs and Prayer, Stormzy perfectly creates a perfect mashup of straight raps and delightful melodies. By creating a spectrum of different sounds over the course of a 16-track album proves he’s one of the most versatile Grime artists in the scene. And not only does he express that London-type feel throughout the album, you can feel the passion in his voice as he raps every word throughout.
In summary, this album is a must-listen. If you’re interested in the Grime scene or gradually becoming interested, this project is one that should be added to your library. Collectively it is one of the most diverse albums that has come out of London in quite some time. Between the sonic aspects along with the lyrics, this album has something for everyone.