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Stormzy 'Gang Signs & Prayer' review

Henry Lewis gives his verdict on the much-anticipated debut from the grime MC.

Henry Lewis

Date published: 27th Feb 2017

Image: Stormzy

Some may feel that enough hyperbole has already surrounded grime's magnificent rise to the top of British culture, however the release of Stormzy's debut album is enough to keep the ball rolling and make the genre truly unignorable.

Not only has the MC continued a releasing streak that has seen the likes of Kano, Skepta, and Wiley drop hugely hyped grime records, his affable personality has allowed the genre to slip seamlessly into the mainstream.

Following in the footsteps of say Tongue 'n' Cheek era Dizzee Rascal, Stormzy has hooked up with a ginger singer on the BRITS, (Dizzee's was Florence, Big Stormz's was Ed Sheeran) whilst also charming the nation with a wicked grin and razor sharp lyrical wit.

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The difference being, Stormzy managed this before his debut even dropped. 

It's been close to two years, yes TWO, since THAT iconic video of the MC laying down the freestyle 'Shut Up' in a red tracksuit, to the delight of a watching and listening world.

Since then his appeal has increased frightening amounts, not least down to jaunts such as inviting a shed load of fans to a booked out Thorpe Park for his 23rd birthday, or performing in the ring ahead of an Anthony Joshua fight, and that has only ramped up the hype around Gang Signs & Prayer.

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Of course, Stormzy doesn't disappoint. New single 'Big For Your Boots' is quite simply poetry in motion, introducing old school rhythms and high-pitched female vocals; the track is grime personified. Along with the likes of 'Cold' and 'Return Of The Rucksack', Stormzy delivers the kind of menacing mash-ups you'd expect, however what may come as a surprise are the amount of more laid back, hip hop influenced tracks on the record.

This could point toward the fact that Stormzy is perfectly poised to cross grime with a more, say, UK rap, style and the likes of 'Cigarettes & Cush' and '100 Bags' demonstrate this expertly. Much like '21 Gun Salute' collaborator Wretch 32, Stormzy has the flow, and softness of tone, to pull off the less stereotypically grimy tracks, and this only helps his cause.

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'Blinded By Your Grace' parts 1 and 2 touch on a delicate demeanor, which may come as a surprise, and exhibit that there are multiple strings to the bow of Mr Michael Omari.

Come the end of the record and you are silenced by 'Shut Up', which still sounds as fresh as it did in 2015. The MC is a far cry from being the BRITs back up dancer he so viciously dismisses, instead you feel that he isn't too far away from owning just about every ceremony he appears at. 

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