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Album Review: Stormzy – Gang Signs and Prayer

2 min read
photo: Mr Stefan Heinrichs

With a cover depicting the Gangsters Last Supper, Stormzy’s debut album isn’t to be taken lightly. After an agonising hiatus, Stormzy smashed back onto the grime scene with Gang Signs and Prayer.

Logically, First Things First opens the album. This return speech is Stormzy’s reclamation as the alpha of grime. Beginning with the sounds of a storm, the song could potentially be borderline cliché. With references to church and blessings contrasted against the devil and demons, Stormzy uses his wit to weave the song together, creating the perfect atmosphere for his album. His internal struggle is summed up: “Before we said our prayers, there was gang signs”. Ignoring the grammar, Stormzy highlights violence as a natural instinct, juxtaposing the peaceful aspects of religion. The lyrics, paired with the chilling beat, stir up an uneasy restlessness within any listener, building palpable anticipation.

The gritty genius on gangs and violence is peppered with surprising vulnerability. Blinded By Your Grace Part 1 is a stunner, though this could be combined with Part 2 without any loss. There is a gospel feel, added to by the choir in Part 2; the electric guitar mixes the genre up, opening a connection to wider audiences. They show raw beauty, dedicated to Stormzy’s appreciation of the role religion has played for him without sounding preachy.

This softness continues with 100 Bags – because who doesn’t root for a guy who loves his mummy? Although a little sermon-like, the overall sincerity moves anyone, doubtless to grab tissues for their tears.

Fear not, Stormzy isn’t lost to sentimentality. The collaboration with Ghetts and J Hus on Bad Boys is a work of art true to Stomrzy’s grime origins. Return of the Rucksack is another stroke of brilliance. Calling out other artists, perhaps one with an upcoming EP who has recently bashed Stormzy, this song can only be taken as a battle cry.

There’s also the return of Shut Up. Sadly a little too polished, the charm the track originally had is somewhat lost. The intention remains, and Stormzy has earned his title as king of grime.