Having risen to the Grime elite over the last few years after dropping tracks and freestyles like ‘Wicked Skengman’, ‘0-100’, ‘Not That Deep’, ‘Know Me From’, ‘Shut Up’ and the ‘Not That Deep EP’, Stormzy released his debut album ‘Gang Signs and Prayer’ on 24th February 2017. The album is special and it’s the bravest album to come out of our scene to date.
Firstly, sonically the album is brilliant. The production is varied, raw and on-point. Stormy has a nice mix of strong guest features while still being the dominant voice on the record. But the reason I think that this is the bravest UK album to date is due to the variety of the content. Stormzy is the leader of the new wave of grime artists who have a massive core fanbase. The demographic of his core audience, the ones that have been going to his shows and buying his music, will be made up of a lot of young white kids from all around the country. His core fanbase love grime and this is why the album is so brave. Stormzy has made an album that mixes Grime and Hiphop with Gospel music! And I’m not just talking about a track with a few references to God, I’m talking about full blown Gospel chords, singing and praise and worship!
As an artist the easy thing to do is to create an album that serves your direct audience, regardless of whether that means you surpress some of your creative juices. It’s a tried and tested method; build up a fanbase in a particular genre with a particular style and keep feeding your audience what they know and love. But what I love about this album and what Stormzy is doing is the fact that he has decided to create the album that HE wants to hear and left the audience to make up their own minds about it. It’s a massive risk but so far, so good. The honesty and humility that Stormzy has shown has seemed to make people even more emotionally connected to him than they were before. As humans we are complicated creatures and I relate to Stormzy as he has many facets to his personality and is into many different things, as most of us are. The problem is that society likes to put us into a box and it’s difficult to express the different sides of your personality when they seem, on face value, to be contradictions. But we are moving towards a society where transparency and complexity is welcomed and Stormzy has fully embraced this. As Stormzy explained in his Not For The Radio interview, he has had a job but also dabbled on the roads, does grime but also appreciates Adele, will smoke weed but is God-fearing and this is all reflected in his lyrics and production. All these things seem like juxtopositions and things that wouldn’t necessarily ‘fit together’ but in reality, that is exactly what most of us are; complex humans that have different thoughts, influences, desires, wants and needs.
What Stormzy has done, at a pivotal moment in his career, has said ‘this is all of me’, take me as I am.
Instead of just feeding the media and his fanbase what they want to hear, and shying away from potential backlash, Stormzy has taken a massive risk and done exactly what HE wants to do. He’s made an album that reflects his own personality and beliefs. The most extraordinary being how he mixed Grime with Gospel, two sounds that are on the opposing ends of the musical spectrum. One is dark and aggressive, the other spiritual and calm but he made it work and executed it expertly. Grime bangers like ‘Bad Boys’ with Ghetts and J-Hus and ‘Return Of The Rucksack’ which borrows an old Dizzee Rascal flow are mixed in with beautiful Gospel songs ‘Blinded by Your Grace’ parts 1 and 2. The fact that Stormzy is an independent artist allows him to experiment like this. I can just imagine a major label’s reaction if he told them he wanted to release a Grime and Gospel album! I’m pretty sure they would have blocked it or advised against it at the very least.
Stormzy says it best himself on Mr Skeng: ‘I do rap, then I do grime, then I do rap, then I sing then I go right back, They said you ain’t gonna blow like that, who gives a f***, you know like that!’
We have massive respect for Stormzy and look forward to seeing him win more. He’s a fantastic leader and someone who can break down barriers and inspire people to do great things. Lets all support the album and take it to number 1.
Written by Elliott