Whether you are a big Stormzy fan or think he’s the most overrated MC in the UK, you cannot deny the impact he has on British music. The album, Gang Signs & Prayer, has been highly anticipated with Stormzy taking about 9 months out from releasing any new music. His popularity has proven to be overwhelming with the accompanying tour being completely sold out in all locations in the UK in under a week! The Album consists of 16 songs with a strong and diverse feature list which I think Stormzy has handpicked and I am glad to see this. Lets get into the review of the tracks:
So first things first, is of course ‘First things first’, I feel like this is the perfect opening track with the audio of a storm as the intro an outro, and the way he explains why has basically been ghost for the last 8/9 months. The track brings everyone right back up to speed with current Stormzy and sort of makes you feel he hasn’t been gone, yet you still understand what you’ve been missing. He also touches on the fact he suffered with depression which may come as a surprise due to his success, we learn more about this through the album.
Next up is ‘Cold’, I’ve been highly anticipating this song as the preview was released ages ago and to be honest I thought we’d have seen it as a single for the album by now. But anyway this is one of the few real up beat grimey songs on the album, Stormzy’s delivery on grime tracks is really something that sets him apart from the rest.
Another song I was really excited to hear was ‘Bad boys’ featuring J Hus and Ghetts. I like that he included the Bashy and Ghetts clash in the intro for all you grime fans who know, if you don’t ask Carlos. The two features I think are great choices, I liked the song but feel it lacked something, maybe I just expected to much.
Now moving onto the ‘Blinded by your grace’ double. Part 1 introduces listeners to this gospel side of the album. It’s nice to see something different from stormzy, I’m not sure if he is the best vocalist but the track definitely shows emotion. Part 2 featuring MNEK is my favourite of the two and probably my favourite song on the album. I think it just due to its energy being very spiritual, MNEK’s vocals are also phenomenal.
Next up is ‘Big for your boots’ which was released a few weeks before the album drop. I’m going to be honest and say I was a little nervous about the album listening to this. It’s not a bad song by any means, I do like it but at first I thought if this is the best from the album then what does the whole album sound like.
‘Velvet’ is a very smooth track where Stormzy also shows off his singing skills. Then after this calm tune we jump straight into ‘Mr Skeng’ which is as you can imagine a very different vibe. Here we see a Stormzy that most people are more familiar with. The song features references to verses in the Bible again showing one of Stormzy’s major influences in his life.
Stormzy’s vocals blend really well with Kehlani’s in ‘Cigarettes and kush’ and the verses are really strong, overall a great track. ’21 Gun salute’ is another one of my favourites from the album and it’s another that has this spiritual and gospel feel.
Then we come back into the grime universe with ‘Return of the rucksack’,where Stormzy talks about how he feels he is still the best in the scene and if anyone wants to challenge that he’ll prove them wrong. I think this song is also a response to anyone who thinks Stormzy has become overrated or gone too commercial.
‘100 Bags’ is almost a tribute song to his mother where we hear an ad lip from her in the intro. I feel this song is really relatable to any young boy or man who has a close relationship with their mum.
Next is ‘Don’t cry for me’ featuring Raleigh Ritchie. I think Stormzy and Raleigh really admire each other’s work and talent and I think this shows in the song. The song has a real flow and Raleighs hook is strong, if you haven’t heard the record “You’re a man now, boy” I highly recommend giving it a listen.
The Crazy Titch interlude really interested me. If you didn’t know Crazy Titch was one of the pioneers of grime in the early stages but was sentenced to a certain number of years in prison. Crazy Titch really shows his support for Stormzy stating over the phone that he knows people who don’t really know grime but know Stormzy. Almost projecting him as something much bigger than the scene itself and that really he is a pioneer taking it into the next stage.
Then of course comes ‘Shut up’ which I’m sure everyone knows about. So let’s move onto the final track, ‘Lay me bare’. This is the track where Stormzy really opens up about his depression and how the people around him have helped him through and how grateful he is. He also touches on his relationship or lack of one with his dad.
In the album Stormzy touches on some important topics such depression, womens rights, and the struggles of seeing how people change as you progress. I do really think Stormzy can be seen as a role model for many young people in a sense that he shows with ambition you can achieve anything you want.
Even though Stormzy is mainly seen as a Grime artist this is most certainly not a grime album. The album does contain certain tracks which I would consider grime but I would say this album is more gospel. Therefore I think the title ‘Gang Signs & Prayer’ is the perfect representation of the project. Overall I think Stormzy’s debut album will most definitely be a success, he hasn’t tried to be anyone else, I think the album is a true representation of him as an artists from the lyrics to the features this is Stormzy.