Stormzy, a cult name that had graced the grime scene but not punctured into the framework.
Almost seen as a bit of a novelty grime artist with his one known hit ‘Shut Up’, Stormzy had some proving to do to reach the lofty heights of his peers and ride the current wave that is the grime scene. Not many of us were expecting what was to come from Stormzy.
Gang Signs & Prayer rockets straight into grime how we know it – heavy booming bass lines and heart pumping aggressive bars comprise the first three tracks. The opening ‘First Things First’ was intended to be a “punch in the face” and his stamp of authority in the grime world rings as a message out to the genre. Big Mike is no joke, he’s here to take over.
‘Blinded By Your Grace, Pt.1’ is a shock. And a beautiful one at that. A monumental twist in the genre which sees grime mellow. It’s like the big man himself is giving you a back massage, there is something quite distressing about it at first, as it breaks all the boundaries from what we know about anger-induced grime. But Stormzy executes this new tone perfectly. He proves himself as a talented singer with a soothing melodic voice and in the space of 2 minutes 40 seconds, opens up the genre to a whole new audience, who before this wouldn’t have gone anywhere near it.
These new tones are carried on throughout the album, noticeably in the exquisite ‘Cigarettes & Cush’. It doesn’t kill out the traditional grime vibe though. Radio hits ‘Big For Your Boots’ and ‘Shut Up’ are the grime bangers that people want and expect from Stormzy.
The juxtaposition of the different tones, somehow, work together in perfect harmony.
This is grime meets Good Kid, M.A.A.D City in style and potentially influence. Kendrick Lamar’s album changed the whole face of rap and Stormzy looks to be evolving grime in a similar fashion. The ‘100 Bags’ opening monologue from his mother, something we see at the end of Kendrick’s ‘I’m Dying Of Thirst’, adds to the impression of a family orientated Stormzy. Alongside this, his joyous charisma and silver toothed smile allude to him being a grounded and hugely likeable character.
The outro ‘Lay Me Bare’ encompasses the hybrid of tones and leaves a glowing reflection of Gang Signs & Prayer. Evolutionary and revolutionary, this album is a perfect innovation.