Gang Signs & Prayer

Gang Signs & Prayer

by StormzyStormzy


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For all the talk of new wave grime artists, Stormzy has long been standing head and shoulders -- literally and figuratively -- above his peers. Whether you agree or not with the term "new wave," it's arguably irrelevant to Michael Omari, who, on his debut album, continues to ascend the sometimes restrictive nature of the genre. The opening tracks feature plenty of the characteristic chest puffing and hostility associated with grime, ticking boxes such as declaring the hard work put in on "First Things First," an Eskibeat homage titled "Cold," and features from heavy-hitters Ghetts and J HUS on "Bad Boys." But as Gang Signs & Prayer unfolds, a lot of the bravado falls away, revealing Omari's inner workings, his roots, and his desire to elevate grime to the next level. "Blinded by Your Grace, Pt. 1" is the first sign that this isn't your typical grime album, offering a touch of gospel and a respite to the proceedings. Whereas Omari has turned his hand to slower numbers in the past -- notably on his 2014 EP Dreamers Disease -- here his singing and the accompanying backing piano feel impassioned and organic. The album continues to shift, gradually at first, with harder tracks alternating with R&B or gospel numbers; by the halfway point, "Cigarettes & Kush," mellow vibes dominate the record. The refusal to pack the track list with bangers is the differentiating factor between Stormzy the grime MC and Stormzy the artist, elegantly showcasing that grime doesn't have to play by the rules, and that artists can express themselves outside of boasting and smack talk, acting as ammo for the argument that diversity and creativity are still prevalent in the scene. The guest spots featured in the latter half of the album are perfectly chosen, with appearances from Kehlani, Wretch 32, MNEK, and Raleigh Ritchie, who all act as counterweights to Omari's deeper tones. Conversely, one of the most touching moments doesn't feature any names; instead, "100 Bags" finds Omari sharing an open letter to his mum, apologizing for past actions that wouldn't have made her proud, and promising to look after her as thanks for raising him alone. During the album's final interlude, Omari's phone rings in the booth, and on the other end is old-era MC Crazy Titch. He's calling from prison -- as he's still serving a life sentence for murder -- just to drop his endorsement: it provides a perfect summation of Stormzy the artist, in the process calling out any MCs from his generation who impose boundaries on grime. Directly afterward, Gang Signs & Prayer hits you with Stormzy's breaking track "Shut Up," reminding haters to hush; quite rightly as "Shut Up" is easily one of the biggest grime tracks in recent years. It's a bold move to go against the grain in a genre where adherence to style can equal respect, but Stormzy's ambition exceeds potential judgment from purists. He's more concerned with expressing himself and adapting to survive, so that he can express further for years to come.

Product Details

Release Date: 06/30/2017
Label: Merky Records
UPC: 0190296979279
catalogNumber: 69792
Rank: 11580

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Stormzy   Primary Artist,Vocals,Background Vocals
Paul Spong   Trumpet
Adam Wakeman   Hammond B3
Patrick Kiernan   Violin
Deborah Widdup   Violin
Fraser T. Smith   Guitar,Percussion,Piano,Bass Guitar,Keyboards,Vocals
Simon Haram   Saxophone
Natalia Bonner   Violin
Owen Slade   Tuba
Martin Williams   Saxophone
Ben Epstein   Bass Guitar
Camilla Pay   Harp
Richard Pryce   Double Bass
Mike Lovatt   Trumpet
Jenny Sacha   Violin
Andy Greenwood   Trumpet
Keesha Gumbs   Choir, Chorus
Ladonna Harley Peters   Vocals,Background Vocals
Emma Owens   Viola
Lily Allen   Vocals,Background Vocals
Bryony James   Cello
Wretch 32   Vocals,Background Vocals
Eleanor Mathieson   Violin
Rosie Denvers   Cello
Sally Jackson   Violin
Hayley Pomfrett   Violin
Ed Tarrant   Trombone
Nozomi Cohen   Viola
Louise Chapman   Bassoon
J. Warner   Vocals
Anna Croad   Violin
Kotono Sato   Violin
Dion Wardle   Piano,Keyboards
Becky Jones   Viola
Ruth O'Reilly   French Horn
Corinne Bailey   French Horn
MNEK   Vocals,Background Vocals
Phebe Edwards   Vocals,Background Vocals
Yasmin Green   Vocals,Background Vocals
Moses Samuels   Background Vocals
Kehlani   Vocals,Background Vocals
Raleigh Ritchie   Vocals,Background Vocals
Rasul A-Salaam   Choir, Chorus
Spyro   Keyboards
J Hus   Vocals,Background Vocals
Momodou Jallow   Vocals,Background Vocals
Dave Stewart   Trombone
Babatundé "Soye" Soyebo   Choir, Chorus
Monet Ulerio   Choir, Chorus
Dexter Hercules   Drums
Mama Stormz   Voices
Lydia Griffiths   Oboe
Kenneth Asomani   Vocals,Background Vocals

Technical Credits

XTC   Composer,Producer
Karl Joseph   Composer
Fraser T. Smith   Composer,Programming,Producer
Nick Taylor   Engineer
Dizzee Rascal   Composer
Crazy Titch   Composer
Muramasa   Composer,Programming,Producer
Rosie Danvers   Orchestration
Ghetts   Composer
Wizzy Wow   Composer,Programming,Producer
Jermaine Scott   Composer
Nozomi Cohen   Composer
Dion Wardle   Composer
Swifta Beater   Composer,Programming,Producer
Manon Grandjean   Engineer,Vocal Engineer
Uzoechi Emenike   Composer
Isra Lohata   Composer,Programming,Producer
Stormzy   Producer
Nao   Composer
Kwabs   Composer
Moses Samuels   Composer
Kehlani   Composer
Spyro   Programming,Producer
Bryan Wilson   Engineer,Vocal Engineer
Varren Wade   Composer
J Hus   Composer
Momodou Jallow   Composer
Mikey Akin   Composer
Jenny Francis   Interlude
Michael Omari   Composer
Sunny Kale   Composer,Programming,Producer
Prince Galalie   Composer
Jacob Anderson   Composer

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