We’ll keep this simple: if Skepta advanced Grime culture further into the mainstream by bridging musical gaps in rather experimental fashion (Konnichiwa), Stormzy — a man who’s only really started his career, relatively speaking — might’ve perfected the formula with his latest release Gang Signs & Prayer (GSAP). Preceded by the instant classic ‘Big For Your Boots’ (keeping with Konnichiwa references, think when you first heard ‘Shutdown’), GSAP is a tour de force of unrelenting lyricism immersed in autobiographical subject matter that dictated the South London emcee’s rise to power post-Cypher In The Booth. That’s not to say that the album is all muscle, either; thanks to somewhat futuristic, forward thinking production, Stormz is able to change speeds constantly and even break out in song — examples include gyal-friendly cuts like ‘Cigarettes & Cush’ and ‘Velvet/Jenny Francis Interlude’, as well as the emotional, Gospel-worthy ‘Blinded By Your Grace’ segments (Chance The Rapper’s potential influence immediately comes to mind for the latter).
GSAP sees 16 tracks and appearances from Kehlani, Wretch 32, Ghetts, J Hus, Lily Allen, MNEK, Raleigh Ritchie and even Grime legend Crazy Titch, who phones in to speak wisdom from prison a la Big Meech. Like Titch, every one of these features play a specific role adding to the cinematic nature of the project, which acts as an official debut from Stormzy for the commercial realm (even though its completely independent, which — like Konnichiwa, once again — will prove to be an extraordinary accomplishment for the UK music scene, if not music period). [SIDEBAR: Of his most-known previous hits — ‘Know Me From’, ‘Scary’, etc. — only ‘Shut Up’ makes the cut on GSAP. In no way does this hurt the overall, much-fresher-because effort, save for maybe an extra boost in sales stream-wise.]
You can stream Gang Signs & Prayer below via Apple Music. We know one thing is for sure: man’s better be getting every nomination (and award win) moving forward….for the singing, at least.