British grime MC Stormzy has released his debut album, Gang Signs & Prayer on 24 February 2017.
By Jane Howkins.
Stormzy has been a part of the U.K. grime scene for a while now, having independently released his debut E.P. Dreamers Disease way back in 2014. He’s had a lot of praise since then, so Gang Signs & Prayer (his first full length release) was always going to be of a high standard. However, we didn’t realise it was going to be quite this good, and it’s a real game changer.
There are two halves to this record. Half of the tracks on GSAP are what one might call ‘typical grime’ songs, being rather fast with Stormzy rapping over some the ingenious background music he has sampled and created. The rest of the songs are softer, with a more gospel and r ‘n’ b sound to them. It’s not so much a physical split (although most of the more traditional grime/rap tracks do occur nearer the first half of the album), but a musical one, and it’s absolutely fascinating to hear such a young artist perform like this. Stormzy obviously has a very varied taste in music and isn’t afraid to experiment, which is excellent from someone of his age.
It’s the more upbeat, rap flavoured songs that we prefer, but that just comes down to personal taste, as both aspects of GSAP are worthwhile listening experiences. The instrumentation that plays underneath Stormzy’s rapping is never too much, subtly adding to the emotion and suspense of each track. One of our particular favourites is the single Big For Your Boots, which features typical grime beats alongside classical instrumentation – something that Stormzy has featured on quite a few of these tracks. It’s quite rare for classical music to mix with grime, so this is highly welcomed by us. Lyrically it’s raw and straight to the point, which is how rap vocals should be.
In terms of the softer songs on the album, the most interesting ones are both parts of Blinded By Your Grace, two songs that follow on from each other which involve Stormzy playing piano and singing instead of rapping. He’s a Christian and fairly serious about his faith, and these gospel themed tracks are a polar opposite to Big For Your Boots and its ilk.
Gang Sings & Prayer is an excellent album from a rising star in the grime genre, who we think is bound to find long term success. With such an innovative album, it would be madness to think otherwise.