What a journey it has been for highly accomplished Michael Omari, also known as the prominent Stormzy. After quite some time, the surreptitious album “Gang Signs & Prayer” has been released and it is beyond doubt an exceptional construction of prodigious mastermind. The album explores the realism of his life and a sublime discovery of cordial emotions concealed behind his illustrious career. Stormzy’s emotional side is revealed, which is a fascinating aspect of the album due to the tough exterior he has built up since his immediate success.
From releasing his first EP in 2014 Dreamers Disease, to Shut Up which was originally a free style reaching the Top 10 UK Singles Chart in 2015, Stormzy is the epitome of an ambitious dreamer, ahead of proficient victory. He delved into his passion through rapping at just the age of 11, and the rest is history. Therefore, establishing dreams do come true. Within the last 3 years Stormzy has maximised his musical aptitude by winning Best Grime Act in 2014 and 2015 at the Mobo Awards, The Times Breakthrough Award at South Bank Awards in 2016, and the Innovator Award at AIM Independent Music Awards in 2016.
Gang Signs & Prayer is an innovative album, completely ahead of what Stormzy has ever done before. The album is a combination of old school traditional grime to a deep resonance of Stormzy’s journey in life. The album begins with ‘Cold’ where Stormzy revisits the true meaning of grime. It is essentially free spirited and throws us back into what grime really is. There is a sense of realism in the track whilst shared with a comical approach. “So tell Boris Johnson “suck your mum, we don’t care””. By addressing key figures in society Stormzy embraces a care-free persona and exhilarates the understanding that anything goes. The theme of hard-core grime continues into the tracks “Big For Your Boots” and “Return of the Rucksack”. “Big For Your Boots” is one of my favourite tracks of the album, released prior to the debut album. Old school grime instrumentals are used fundamentally branding the album as authentic grime. The high pitched vocals are experimented in an old school riddim/garage track, which assures the track a fresh old school collective. There’s an element of power and authority in the track, where Stormzy brings to light the competitive nature of youth culture and re-enacts this through his prudently constructed lyrics. “Return of the Rucksack” differs from “Big For Your Boots” where traditional grime is left behind and a heavy grime and club classic genre is created. Hands down, this will ultimately be hottest summer track of the year. It has the ability to engross its listeners into youth culture and creates a shared hype.
An intriguing aspect of the album is the sincere unfeigned façade Stormzy reveals which he has never shown in his music before. This track shares the same old school grime instrumentals we have discovered as discussed before, but the track is so tender and delicate it is almost as if we are in a dreamy illusion. The track itself originates from a contemporary R&B genre, which is the perfect fit to how Stormzy reveals his emotional relationships. “You got a hold on me, girl you too tight/We can go from Paris to Rome in two nights/If I’m gonna do it I gotta do it right, alright”, there is an essence of youthful romance, and we can immediately feel the electrifying bond of lust. The contemporary R&B genre continues to shadow over the album in “Cigarettes and Cush” featuring the angelic voice of Kehlani. The beauty of this track is distinguishable as we can understand the distinct connection between the two lovers indefinitely. There is clarity through a glowing ambiance flowing between the lustre rhythm, when integrated with the ever so profound lyrics, conveys a softer side to Stormzy’s hard exterior.
As we reach the mid-point of the album, the album becomes beautifully sentimental. “Blinded By Your Grace” and “100 Bags” are songs that candidly captivate my heart and soul. These tracks are very modest and cordial. “Blinded By Your Grace” has the ability to lift our souls into happiness, and it is faithfully sensational. Stormzy encompasses what he is thankful for through a Gospel song. Whereas “100 Bags” is a tribute to his mother where he reminisces the struggles they faced growing up. The tune itself has a light and pensive consciousness, it is almost heavenly. “And I’ll be right here whenever you need me, I need you to/Know that your son’s got your back”, Stormzy relishes his pride and care for his mother.
The virtuous division of Gang Signs & Prayer is the real depth embodied in the album. “Don’t Cry For Me” featuring Raleigh Ritchie exhibits the sad truth behind gang culture. Despite moving forward into success, Stormzy expresses how growing up around this lifestyle remains within him and emphasises on his concerning worry for his lost friends. “Tryna tell my Gs to relax and invest in life/They invest in knives”, this track is primarily a life lesson. The fusion of orchestral instrumentals and brass is what makes it a sincere and solemn track He explains it is not a choice for that type of livelihood, “And I know you think it serves em’ right/But I come from a place where you burn or die”.
Stormzy’s commitment to the music industry is very much apparent in Gang Signs & Prayer. The album has a spontaneous characteristic, with much depth and variety. There are certain opposing aspects in regard to his previous work, and communicates differently with the listener due to a emotional concoction through what the listener can relate to. Stormzy has collaborated with A-listers such as Chip, P Money, Big Narstie, Ed Sheeran, Little Simz, Kano, Giggs and the list goes on. It is undeniable that Stormzy will continue to explore many crucial areas of the music industry, and the best is yet to come.