Few debut grime albums are met with the excitement that has surrounded Stormzy‘s. From breaking out through a freestyle in a park that went viral to recently performing with Ed Sheeran at The Brits, the rise of of Stormzy has been astronomical.
Opener First Things First speaks for itself, Stormzy wastes no time addressing multiple issues. From addressing The LBC controversy “LBC’s tryna’ black ball me and tryna’ blame your boy for knife crime”, to speaking out about his struggles with depression, it’s a no holds barred introduction and sees several scores settled.
Ghetts and J Hus join Stormzy on Bad Boys one of the standout tracks of the album. J-Hus brings a wavy bridge to the track and Ghetts turns up as he has on several recent grime albums, his intense vocals pair up perfectly with the sinister beat.
Blinded By Your Grace Pt.1 is a complete change of pace and a total shock. Stormzy demonstrates a genuinely heartwarming ability to song as he’s coupled with a subtle gospel backing. It’s a bold risk but shows Stormzy’s capability to switch both flaws and genres with ease.
Those simply listening for big hits won’t feel short changed despite the diversity of the album, whilst the instrumental for Big For Your Boots feels a bit vacuous and lacking in well, instruments it’s still a massive track and the chorus is a total earworm. Standout track Mr Skeng also delivers on the archetypal grime track promise, balancing humour and intensity over one of the best beats of the album it’s a swaggering victory. The studio version of Shut Up also somehow manages to sound better than the video that brought Stormzy to fame.
To not take note of the closer Lay Me Bare would be a discredit to the album. “Man get low sometime so low sometimes, airplane mode on my phone sometimes” confesses Stormzy as he opens up about his fight against depression.
The cultural importance of this album cannot be stressed enough, this album is one of many spearheading the way forward for a genre on a dizzying rise. Where this album may lack in back to back bangers and floor-fillers for grime nights it makes up for with it’s unapologetic honesty and rawness. Admittedly there are some clangers like Velvet, but on the whole the tracklisting is reasonably solid.
On Gang Signs and Prayers, Michael Amori just 23 years old stands proud and speaks out loud about his love for his mum or his struggles with depression, things you’d be surprised to hear about on a grime album. Whilst musically it’s not groundbreaking as a package it’s exactly so, grime is on the rise and Stormzy is leading the charge.
Words by Jack Winstanley