Stormzy’s newly released ‘Gang Signs and Prayer’ is effectively the greatest “Fuck You” to any grime doubters, or any that refuse to accept it as a valid genre. Even though the album merges, rather well, other genres like Gospel and old style R&B, the core and essence is still unashamedly grime. So, as a result of the albums creativity and originality, it will leave critics struggling to go through the album without finding at least one song they enjoy.
I don’t think, at this point, with both the delivery of the album (which also displays his Gospel-like singing voice) and his various performances at The Brits, that anyone can realistically not afford him at least some credit.
Gang Signs and Prayer is everything you’d expect from such a title: it’s a celebration of culture, of social pride, of faith and of self-belief. As you listen through the album, made up of a generous award of 16 songs, you are sent on a road trip of originality. One moment you’re listening to a song like First Things First: grimey, honest and proud. The next you’re finding yourself surprised by the softness of Blinded by Your Grace which is an impressively calming, well paced and tender piece. Then of course you have the classic singles we’ve already heard ‘Shut Up’ and ‘Big For Your Boots’.
Gang Signs and Prayer plays you a selection of consistently honest tunes, with flows and lyrics that take the genre to a complete new level. Stormzy knows how to write a song, he knows how to perform and he knows what he’s doing. Whats more is he knows he can do it, but is still somehow appreciative and humble and that is wholly dangerous to any of his competitors; it brings him to the top of the game.
I can’t help but think some of the words in Crazy Titch, an interlude that is an unexpected conversation between the Grime MC Crazy Titch and Stormzy, is important. Whatever you might think or know about Crazy Titch’s own issues and controversy, his words cannot be disagreed with in this interlude:
“anyone from my era of grime, need to recognise, that if you cannot fathom that this guy’s about to take it from a second rate genre to a first rate genre, then you need to look at yourself and be ashamed, seriously, you have to be ashamed. Because we started from the roots of this ting, now we’ve gone past the roots”
To me, that’s a historic, and frankly quite emotional statement. This comes from a large player within the beginning of Grime, something that was quite different to today but still held the same core. It was niche, it was something that a lot of people saw as exclusive, it was something that a lot of people found scary, and no-one believe it would succeed. Now we’ve seen it rise again: Skepta, J Hus, Giggs, J ME, Kano, Ghetts, Novelist, the list literally keeps expanding, and the genre keeps increasing in popularity and originality.
That interlude, and this album is a significant player within the timeline of Grime’s success. It provides the worlds audience, critics and more importantly rappers, singers, musicians, creatives, with a powerful message. This is pride. This is shamelessness in the face of doubt. This is taking something undermined, from a place of real passion and hard work and bringing it to the forefront of recognition. Take note. Stormzy is going nowhere. You have to give a large amount of respect to his ability to seamlessly dominate several different modes of music and to put up with the endless crap that class-focused critics deal.
Satire. Honesty. Humour. Faith and most importantly Pride. That’s what Gang Signs and Prayer is all about. Give it a listen, appreciate it.
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️