News 24 February 2017
Author: Alex Griffin

1st Listen Review: Stormzy’s ‘Gang Signs And Prayer’ album

24 February 2017

The day has finally arrived. Stormzy has landed with his brand new debut album Gang Signs And Prayer and the world has never been more ready.

He’s come a long way from creating fire in the park, as this land mark release looks to cement the Wicked Skengman on the charts forever.

We at GRM are just as excited as anybody. So much so, that we’ve got a few members of our gang – namely Griff and Jaik – to wait up and spin this for the first time together.

They’ve poured a couple glasses and rolled two two zoots ready for the musical journey. Read their unfiltered thoughts, track by track and as they listen to it, below now.

“First Things First”

The moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally here… There’s a storm coming. Track one and Stormzy is tackling a trap riddim like it’s light work. “Running on my strip, rappers jumping on my dick just to build up a rapport.” He spits with venom. The dramas built more with some trippy female vocal ting. Shots at the pagans at LBC!! His flow has stayed consistent and complex on this one. Shots at the pagan at DSTRKT!!! This one has two two statements and pure aggression for an opener and sets the stage for what’s to come. Let’s get number two cracking.


This one has been talked about a lot, as he’s already played it live a couple times. Swifta Beater done the ting on this one, the drum pattern is out of this world. This is like dirty carnival gun finger skank vibes. “I was on the roads when Giggs made “Talkin’ The Hardest” he spits. By the time the first verse one comes in proper I’m already dying to wheel it up. F*ck this format I need to pull up. “Cold” is 100% the one for the clubs, the raves and the festivals coming holy sh*t. “If you don’t turn this up it’s not fun,” is exactly right. Rah.

“Bad Boys” (ft. Ghetts & J Hus)

I was probably most excited for this one when i saw the track list, it’s a cross generation link up of mad proportions. Gonna be ENERGY. An interlude of a classic Ghetts clip intros it; “ask Carlos”. Stormzy kicks off proceedings over an airy instrumental that’s more rap than I anticipated. String sections, tension and drama all over again. J Hus interprets ask Carlos on his sung hook which has him drawing straight for badman melodies. Ghetto comes in to play no games; “18 when I first said ask Carlos/now they ask how much my car costs” is a BAR. Who’s been this consistent for this long, for real though? Living legend passing the torch to a couple young kings and the result is spectacular.

“Blinded By Your Grace” (Pt 1)

Judging from the title and the initial smooth piano keys, we’re going to switch it up away from gang signs and into prayer right now. Stormzy is straight up singing over a drumless piece of light-providing production, supported by some gorgeous female vocals. How did man just swing the pendulum all the way in the other direction like that and I’m totally fine with it?

“Big For Your Boots”

The previous tune was kinda like an interlude. A short breather before we kick straight back into the familiar, ecstatic energy of the lead single. This tune reached the top ten and secured Stormzy’s second one ever, so the power of it goes without saying. It still sounds just as cold as it did upon release and is bound to continue shutting down the dance until the summer is in and out.

“Velvet/Jenny Francis (Interlude)”

Pitched up vocal samples give this one an old school feel. A lazy 808 drum loop kicks in over some smooth and jazzy production. Stormzy is back on his rap ting. This is that spark one up and light it music. Might have to do just that and pass the reviewing baton over when this tune is out. He’s talking love and relationships in depth on this one, backed by an infectious sung chorus. He’s really showing off his artistic versatility and diversity across this record. All types of fans are gonna be happy with the riddims so far. “Man thought Stormzy couldn’t sing,” he rounds up.

“Mr Skeng”

Here we go, back into that grimy ish. This one is big and orchestral, Stormz is spraying over something like James Bond score on this one. Gunshot Michael or Mr Skeng is a couple more nicknames for his growing list of aliases. This is Stormzy really in his element with his favoured skippy flow all over it. “I do rap then I do grime, then I do rap, then I sing and I go right back,” is probably the best he’s ever summarised himself too and a real stand out bar on this track.

“Cigarettes & Cush” (ft. Kehlani)

The transatlantic link up on the album features R&B songstress Kehlani and her and Stormz open this one up with some sweet singing. It’s another chilled out, piano laden and smoke-ready riddim that finds Stormzy extending out his musicality a little bit more. It’s not necessarily for me musically, but it’s an easy listen and accessible as f*ck. When you’re trying to draw a girl at your yard, this is the perfect vibe setter. Shouts out to Lily Allen too!

“21 Gun Salute” (ft. Wretch 32) [Interlude]

A collaboration that I was EAGERLY looking forward to. Whilst only being an interlude, it perfectly sets you up into the next track featuring MNEK. Having the legendary Wretch on this was a necessary must, and a tip of the hat towards one of the legends in the UK scene. Words can’t describe my happiness for it! (Jaik)

“Blinded By Your Grace” (Pt 2 ft. MNEK)

The production on this is impeccable, so shoutout to Fraser T Smith. Delving into his religious side (something he holds very highly), this gospel anthem is nothing short of beautiful. This is intensely enhanced by the vocals of MNEK. Showing his versatility, this is a track I will play when I get a W. Salute, bro. Probably my favourite track on this. (Jaik)

“Return Of The Rucksack”

Whilst the transition from the previous song might be a bit hard to digest, this is a track I wanted to hear from Big Mike. This is the Wicked Skengman in full force and he rides the beat as per. The chorus reminds me a bit of Tinchy Stryder’s “Mainstream Money” and brings a real 00s Grime vibe to the album.

“100 Bags”

Probably one of my favourite tracks on the album. A heartfelt song for Stormzy’s mother, which is something I, and many, can relate to. Talking about enduring the trials and tribulations of the past and his mum always sticking it out through thick and thin. That sort of message rings clear in my heart as those feelings towards his mum are replicated within me. Stormzy’s talks of what his success has given his mum is something I definitely strive to do in my life. The track starts with a message from the Queen herself and sets it up for an emotionally charged and beautiful track. (Jaik) 

“Don’t Cry For Me (ft. Raleigh Ritchie)

Once again, another emotion-filled track with a brilliant feature from Raleigh. Touching on deeper subjects, the synergy between the pair is incredible. Stormzy’s expressive verses are broken up by an impeccable chorus from Raleigh Ritchie. A trip down memory lane that revisits Stormzy losing his friend Charmz, it refreshingly removes him from a stigma that many may have had pre-album. It’s tracks like this that make you realise that a lot of thought and time has gone into compiling Gang Signs & Prayer. (Jaik)

“Crazy Titch (Interlude)”

The inclusion of Crazy T is something that many old school fans of Grime will hold dearly. As many know, Titch is in the motions of a long stretch inside at the moment, and any voice recordings/interactions are incredibly rare. He talks of Stormzy being on the cusp of taking Grime from a second tier genre to a first tier one and it’s a timely reminder of the scene’s elevation. To have a man who has been inside for so long recognise the journey furthers signifies the man’s impact. (Jaik)

“Shut Up”

Nothing really needs to be said on this that hasn’t been said already. The track that essentially put him to the attentions of the world, and has made him the artist on everyone’s lips. It’s placement is a tip towards the freestyle that has put him in this glorious position. It will forever be remembered in the scene as one of the pivotal steps to our ascension. (Jaik)

“Lay Me Bare”

I know a lot of people will say “why wasn’t it all Grime?” when reaching the dying embers of the album’s duration. However, it shows a huge disrespect towards Stormy’s wealth of talent. Tracks like this are what’s going to see him become a focal point in not only our scene, but the worldwide scene. Touching on the subject of walkway dads, Stormzy shows raw passion and anger whilst opening up about his estranged father. Again, a topic that a lot of our generation suffer with on a daily basis, it completes the outpouring of his life which makes it connect so well. Congratulations bro, you did it. (Jaik)