It’s a lot to digest. A gospel-grime opera with punchlines, backing choirs, phonecalls, radio DJs and Kit-Kats. The reviews are beginning to emerge – and most of them are glowing. We’ve decided we’re going to let this one sink in until we publish our official verdict. Hold tight for a review at the top of next week.
For now, we’ve picked out eight talking points that have got us asking all the questions and clicking play over and over. Gang Signs & Prayer is out now. Go listen.
The last verse on 'First Things First'
“Fuck DSTRKT and fuck all these nightclubs / And fuck giving money to people that don’t like us / There’s riots in the city just tell me where I sign up.” In the first real explosive moment of the LP (it only takes him 2 minutes 30 seconds), Stormzy fixes his gaze on DSTRKT, the West London club with a history of operating a racist door policy. As Stormzy told Thump at the beginning of last year, “It’s such a disrespect. You won’t embrace black people but you’ll play our music.”
As an independent artist who now heads up his own #MERKY indie label, Stormzy should be considered a truly antiestablishment artist. This verse is his manifesto.
DSTRKT trying to get through to stormzy’s management pic.twitter.com/qDrXLx4sdh
— n (@ManLike_Ishi) February 24, 2017
"Carlos" on 'Bad Boys'
After years of speculation, Ghetts finally discussed who ‘Carlos’ was during an in-depth interview with Not For The Radio following the constant question asked of who he was really calling for during the infamous 2006 clash with Bashy. Get the lowdown on the myth and the legend here. Ten years later and Ghetts – turning in a particularly impressive verse – has now embraced the joke that followed him round so consistently, utilising it in Bad Boys and helping J Hus create a hook for the heads to appreciate. Stormzy even name dropped Carlos into his own bars.
YOU’RE NOT BAD, I’M BAD ASK CARLOSSSSSSSS pic.twitter.com/282HU6WtYu
— GRM Daily (@GRMDAILY) February 24, 2017
— Él Pàpi Docs (@payrolldocs) February 24, 2017
Jenny Francis bridging singing Stormzy into spraying Stormzy
For those who don’t know, Jenny Francis is a radio DJ who now hosts the 10PM-1AM slot on Heart FM. Before that, she hosted on Choice FM where she gained the title “Lady Of Soul”. In short, her silky voice is the sound of winding down on late night drives and weeknights spent in. On GSAP, she bridges the gap between the ultra-smooth Velvet and the gloves-off fighting talk of Mr. Skeng. As the make believe DJ of “#MERKY FM”, Francis is a true pro and the inclusion of her voice is a nice touch from Stormzy.
— Jenny Francis (@JennyfrancisLOS) February 23, 2017
Man got Jenny Francis! Jenny Francis you know! You know how much times she held me down in the slow down! Stormz is a G!
— Yungen (@YungenPlayDirty) February 24, 2017
Bible verses on 'Mr. Skeng'
There are a lot of references to Stormzy’s faith and his God on GSAP. One clear example which stands out comes at the end of the epic Mr. Skeng where Stormzy spits, “Brother, I’m good, I stay with the lord / Bible carrier, that’s my sword
Matthew 12, so I don’t talk / John 19’s why I never got caught.” We don’t have a bible in the office so we Googled it.
According to a Bible Summary website, in Matthew 12 Jesus says, “A tree is known by its fruit. The sign of Jonah will be given.” This explains why Stormzy isn’t talking – the proof will be in the pudding. A fitting emblem of his hiatus from social media. Then John 19, according to our sources, is where the crown of thorns is place on Jesus’ head and he reminds Pontius Pilate that he “has no power at all against Him except what was given to him from above.”
Now I know why the 24:02 was in the format of a bible verse, makes so much sense 😭 Stormzy you legend 🙏🏾
— MARCH 5TH (@Braddo_1) February 24, 2017
Lord of The Mics snub on 'Return of The Rucksack'
Another stellar instrumental from Sir Spyro on this one. In terms of bars, this track is the gift that keeps giving. The intro draws out the battle lines quite explicitly, “I don’t wanna be on Lord of the Mics with shit MC’s, na bro, I’m above that.”
It’s not the first time he’s referenced the legendary grime sparring series (“You ain’t even lord of your yard!”) is one of the most memorable lines from Shut Up. Let’s just hope he hasn’t deleted Jammer’s number.
— chants (@ChanteleAmber_) February 24, 2017
'100 Bags' joins the great lineage of rap songs for mumsy
Joining the likes of Kanye’s Hey Mama, Drake’s You & The 6, Snoop’s I Love My Momma and Tupac’s Dear Mama, Stormzy’s 100 Bags is a world-class rap song for Mum. Opening with a sampled recording of Stormzy’s mother blessing him for the day ahead, the song goes on to melt hearts. With promises to get her “out the hood” and touching bars like “South of the Thames, where I come from’s mad / Done some dirt and I ain’t too proud that you’re living on the road that your son got stabbed.”
— ㅤ (@tularosaa_) February 24, 2017
Crazy Titch putting faith in Stormzy to bring the entire genre to a new level
Potentially the biggest talking point of the whole record, Stormzy enters the final chapter of the album with a phoned-in interlude from incarcerated MC Crazy Titch. “If you cannot fathom that this guy’s about to take it from a second rate genre to a first rate genre, then you need to look at yourself and be ashamed, seriously, you have to be ashamed”, Titch tells Stormzy over the phone. He also reels off all off Stormzy’s hashtags before admitting, “I don’t even know what a hashtag is, I just know it’s proper Merky.” It’s a special moment for those who have followed the scene since it’s inception. Symbolic of the prophetic feeling grime fans ascribe to Stormzy.
Amazing seeing the TL light up for Gang Signs and Prayer. It’s everything you could hope for. Crazy Titch intervention so poignant #GSAP
— dan hancox (@danhancox) February 24, 2017
Personal confessional lyrics on 'Lay Me Bare'
As emotional finales go, Lay Me Bare is particularly poignant. Lyrically, there is lot’s going on but a few particular bars stand out. Firstly “They think I went ghost to drop my tape / Not knowing that I fell and lost my faith” seems to suggest that Stormzy’s absence from social media wasn’t just a creative or professional decision. The second verse also opens with an openhearted story about Stormzy being unexpectedly reunited with his father. The verse ends with Stormzy looking back on Thornton Heath at the end of his debut album. “Left my hood and grabbed the mic / And I got me a girl that prays for me.”
By the time I got to ‘Lay Me Bare’ I felt like I’d been on the most harrowing emotional journey of my life lmaoooo
— tosin 🇳🇬 (@z4chary_) February 24, 2017