Gang Signs & Prayer

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Gang Signs & Prayer
Gang Signs & Prayer cover.jpg
Studio album by Stormzy
Released 24 February 2017
Recorded 2015–16
Genre
Length 58:46
Label
Producer
Stormzy chronology
Dreamers Disease
(2014)Dreamers Disease2014
Gang Signs & Prayer
(2017)
Singles from Gang Signs & Prayer
  1. "Big for Your Boots"
    Released: 3 February 2017
  2. "Cold"
    Released: 12 March 2017[1]
  3. "Cigarettes & Cush"
    Released: 29 August 2017[2]
  4. "Blinded by Your Grace, Pt. 2"
    Released: 27 October 2017[3]

Gang Signs & Prayer is the debut studio album by English rapper Stormzy. It was released on 24 February 2017 independently through #Merky Records while being distributed by ADA of Warner Music Group.[4] It is Stormzy's first major commercial release, following the Dreamers Disease EP (2014). The album features guest appearances from fellow MCs Wretch 32, Ghetts and J Hus, along with singers Kehlani, Raleigh Ritchie and MNEK. It features production from Fraser T Smith and Sir Spyro, among others.

The album was supported by the lead single "Big for Your Boots". Gang Signs & Prayer received critical acclaim upon release, and entered the UK Albums Chart at number one with sales of 69,000, becoming the first grime album in history to reach number one. It holds the distinction of having every song from the album appear concurrently on the UK Singles Chart, including seven songs in the top 40.[5]

Background[edit]

After garnering attention on the UK underground music scene via his Wicked Skengman series of freestyles over classic grime beats, Stormzy released his debut EP Dreamers Disease independently in July 2014.[6]

In March 2015, he released the single "Know Me From", which entered the UK Singles Chart at number 49. In September 2015, he released a final instalment to his "WickedSkengMan" freestyle series, "WickedSkengMan 4", onto iTunes, along with a studio version of his "Shut Up" freestyle over XTC's Functions on the Low instrumental.[7] The track debuted at number 18 on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Stormzy's first top 40 hit.[8] The online video for "Shut Up" garnered millions of views and attention from the mainstream. As a result, Stormzy launched a Christmas number one campaign to get the song to number one,[9][10][11] ultimately peaking at number eight on the UK Singles Chart.

After a year's hiatus from social media to focus on the recording of the album, Stormzy returned in early February 2017 via a series of billboard campaigns across London displaying lyrical quotes and the hashtag #GSAP 24.02. The album title was announced to be Gang Signs & Prayer, set to be released on 24 February 2017, followed by the track listing the following day.[12][13][14]

Promotion[edit]

Prior to the album's official announcement, the non-single track "Shut Up" was released in September 2015 and ultimately included as the penultimate track on Gang Signs & Prayer. The non-album single "Scary" was released in April 2016 prior to Stormzy's hiatus. On 1 February 2017, a billboard campaign was launched across numerous areas in London that foreshadowed the release of the album.

Singles[edit]

"Big for Your Boots" was released as the album's lead single on 3 February 2017. The track was produced by Fraser T Smith and Sir Spyro. It entered the UK Singles Chart at number eight, become tied with "Shut Up" as Stormzy's highest-charting single. The song reached a new peak of number six in its fourth week of charting after the release of Gang Signs & Prayer, surpassing "Shut Up" as Stormzy's highest-charting single.

"Cold" was released as the album's second single on 12 March, following the album being certified Gold in the United Kingdom.[1]

"Cigarettes & Cush" was released as the album's third single on 29 August 2017.[2]

"Blinded by Your Grace, Pt. 2" was released as the album's fourth single on 27 October 2017.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 82/100[15]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[16]
Evening Standard 4/5 stars[17]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[18]
The Independent 3/5 stars[19]
The Line of Best Fit 9/10[20]
musicOMH 4/5 stars[21]
NME 5/5 stars[22]
Pitchfork 7.6/10[23]

Upon its release Gang Signs & Prayer received widespread acclaim from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 82, based on 18 reviews.[15] Giving it a perfect score, Jordan Bassett of NME stated that Stormzy "delivers a knockout debut that’s brash and pensive in equal measure."[22]

Alexis Petridis of The Guardian praised the musical diversity of the album: "More startling, however, is the confidence with which other tracks shift into unexpected musical territory. On paper, a rapper like Stormzy recording a lo-fi, electric piano-led, Stevie Wonderesque gospel track called '"Blinded By Your Grace, Pt 1" sounds like a textbook case of an artist overstretching himself; in reality, it’s fantastic, and oddly moving.", concluding that "It’s not a perfect debut – it’s slightly too long for one thing, and there are a couple of points where it sags – but it sounds like an album teeming with original, daring ideas. More importantly, it sounds like the work of an artist with the confidence and the talent to pull those ideas off."[18]

Accolades[edit]

Publication Accolade Year Rank Ref.
Drowned in Sound Favourite Albums of 2017
2017
79
NME NME's Albums of the Year 2017
2017
14

Commercial performance[edit]

After receiving close competition with Rag'n'Bone Man's Human, Gang Signs & Prayer entered the UK Albums Chart at number one, with combined sales of 68,594 copies.[26][27] It set British streaming records for the most first-week streams for a number one album in chart history, with 13.9 million streams, surpassing the opening week stream count of Drake's Views. Gang Signs & Prayer became the first grime album to chart at number one, as well as joining the likes of Skepta and Giggs of charting in the top five independently. The album also charted at number one on the UK Independent Chart, UK R&B Chart and the Irish Albums Chart, number two on the Scottish Albums Chart. Outside of the UK, it entered the Official New Zealand Music Chart at number 14 and number 34 in Sweden.

In the album's first week of release, seven tracks from Gang Signs & Prayer were in the top 40 of the UK Singles Chart – "Big for Your Boots", "Cold", "Bad Boys", "First Things First", "Mr Skeng", "Cigarettes & Cush" and "Shut Up". All sixteen tracks from the album appeared in the top 100 in a single week, making Stormzy only the fourth artist to achieve this after Justin Bieber (Purpose), Beyoncé (Lemonade) and The Weeknd (Starboy).[28]

Gang Signs & Prayer was certified Silver by the BPI in its first week of release.[29]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "First Things First" 3:27
2. "Cold"
  • Omari
  • Omari Mosi Wooley
  • Swifta Beater
  • Fraser T Smith
2:36
3. "Bad Boys" (featuring Ghetts and J Hus)
  • Fraser T Smith
  • E.Y Beats
  • 169
4:06
4. "Blinded by Your Grace, Pt. 1"
Fraser T Smith 2:40
5. "Big for Your Boots"
  • Omari
  • Karl Joseph
  • Fraser T Smith
  • Sir Spyro
3:58
6. "Velvet / Jenny Francis (Interlude)"
Fraser T Smith 5:39
7. "Mr Skeng"
  • Omari
  • Joseph
  • Fraser T Smith
  • Sir Spyro
3:17
8. "Cigarettes & Cush" (featuring Kehlani and Lily Allen)
Fraser T Smith 5:49
9. "21 Gun Salute (Interlude)" (featuring Wretch 32)
Fraser T Smith 2:26
10. "Blinded by Your Grace, Pt. 2" (featuring MNEK)
Fraser T Smith 3:50
11. "Return of the Rucksack"
  • Sir Spyro
  • Fraser T Smith
3:04
12. "100 Bags"
  • Omari
  • Sunny Kale
  • Fraser T Smith
  • Kale
3:37
13. "Don't Cry for Me" (featuring Raleigh Ritchie)
3:34
14. "Crazy Titch (Interlude)"
Fraser T Smith 2:40
15. "Shut Up"
  • Omari
  • XTC
XTC 2:46
16. "Lay Me Bare"
  • EY
  • Fraser T Smith
5:04
Total length: 58:46

Notes

  • "Velvet / Jenny Francis (Interlude)" features additional vocals by Jenny Francis.
  • "Crazy Titch (Interlude)" features additional vocals by Crazy Titch.

Sample credits

  • "Velvet / Jenny Francis (Interlude)" contains a sample of "Intro (Like Velvet)" performed by Nao, written by Neo Jessica Joshua.
  • "Return of the Rucksack" interpolates lyrics from "Seems 2 Be" by Dizzee Rascal.
  • "Lay Me Bare" contains a sample of "Last Stand" by Kwabs, written by Kwabena Adjepong.

Personnel[edit]

Vocals

  • Stormzy – vocals
  • MNEK – vocals
  • Lily Allen – vocals
  • Raleigh Ritchie – vocals
  • Kehlani – vocals
  • Wretch 32 – vocals
  • J Hus – vocals, backing vocals
  • Yasmin Green – vocals
  • Sleeks – backing vocals
  • Rasul A-Salaam – arranger, vocals
  • Keesha Gumbs – vocals
  • Babatunde "Soye" Soyebo – vocals
  • Monet Ulerio – vocals
  • Jenny Francis – spoken word
  • Crazy Titch – spoken word
  • Mama Stormz – spoken word
  • LaDonna Harley-Peters – backing vocals
  • Phebe Edwards – backing vocals
  • J Warner – backing vocals
  • Kenneth Asomani – backing vocals
  • Flipz – backing vocals
  • Rimes – backing vocals
  • Moses Samuels – backing vocals

Instruments

  • Rosie Danvers – orchestration, cello
  • Ruth O'Reilly – French horn
  • Corinne Bailey – French horn
  • Mike Lovat – trumpet
  • Andy Greenwood – trumpet
  • Paul Spong – trumpet
  • Dave Stewart – trombone
  • Ed Tarrant – trombone
  • Owen Slade – tuba
  • Simon Haram – saxophone
  • Martin Williams – saxophone
  • Lydia Griffiths – oboe
  • Louise Chapman – bassoon
  • Patrick Kiernan – violin
  • Hayley Pomfrett – violin
  • Debbie Widdup – violin
  • Eleanor Mathieson – violin
  • Jenny Sacha – violin
  • Anna Croad – violin
  • Kotono Sato – violin
  • Natalia Bonner – violin
  • Sally Jackson – violin
  • Emma Owens – viola
  • Becky Jones – viola
  • Nozomi Cohen – viola
  • Bryony James – cello
  • Richard Pryce – double bass
  • Camilla Pay – harp
  • Ben Epstein – bass guitar
  • Dexter Hercules – drums
  • Dion Wardle – keyboards, piano
  • Adam Wakeman – hammond

Production

  • Fraser T Smith – producer, mixer, programming, guitar, bass guitar, piano, keys, percussion
  • Manon Grandjean – mixer, engineer
  • Nick Taylor – engineer
  • Tom Coyne – mastering engineer
  • Randy Merrill – mastering engineer
  • Bryan Wilson – engineer
  • Mura Masa – producer, programming
  • Swifta Beater – producer, programming
  • EY – producer, programming
  • Sons of Sonix – production, programming
  • Sir Spyro – producer, keyboards, programming
  • Sunny Kale – producer, programming
  • Wizzy Wow AKA Isra Lohata – producers, programming
  • 169 – bass programming
  • 6Sixx – producer, programming, mixer
  • Scott Jacoby – recording engineer

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2017) Peak
position
Australian Albums (ARIA)[30] 11
Australian Urban Albums (ARIA)[31] 1
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[32] 86
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[33] 126
Canadian Albums (Billboard)[34] 91
Danish Albums (Hitlisten)[35] 12
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[36] 25
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[37] 44
Irish Albums (IRMA)[38] 1
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[39] 14
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[40] 22
Scottish Albums (OCC)[41] 2
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[42] 34
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[43] 38
UK Albums (OCC)[44] 1
UK Independent Albums (OCC)[45] 1
UK R&B Albums (OCC)[46] 1

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[47] Gold 259,000[48]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label
Worldwide 24 February 2017

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "STORMZY [@STORMZY1] - COLD". YouTube. Retrieved 1 June 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "STORMZY - CIGARETTES AND CUSH FT. KEHLANI & LILY ALLEN". YouTube. 
  3. ^ a b "BBC - Radio 1 - Playlist". Radio 1. 
  4. ^ "iTunes - Gang Signs & Prayer by Stormzy". iTunes. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 
  5. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100 | Official Charts Company". www.officialcharts.com. Retrieved 2017-03-03. 
  6. ^ "New EP: Stormzy 'Dreamers Disease' – MOBO Awards". 
  7. ^ "WickedSkengMan4 – Single by Stormzy". iTunes (UK). Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  8. ^ "Justin Bieber back at No 1 with What Do You Mean?". The Guardian. 18 September 2015. 
  9. ^ "Grime MC Stormzy launches campaign for Christmas No 1". The Guardian. 14 December 2015. 
  10. ^ "Stormzy And Twitter Want #ShutUpForXmasNo1". Capital XTRA. 14 December 2015. 
  11. ^ "Odds on Stormzy getting Christmas Number One cut following 'Shut Up' boxing performance". NME. 14 December 2015. 
  12. ^ "Stormzy shares full debut album details - NME". nme.com. 2 February 2017. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  13. ^ "Stormzy album GSAP may be 'best of 2017' says 1Xtra's A.Dot". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  14. ^ "Stormzy reveals tracklist for debut album Gang Signs & Prayer". factmag.com. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  15. ^ a b "Reviews for Gang Signs & Prayer by Stormzy". Metacritic. Retrieved 14 August 2017. 
  16. ^ Martin, Liam (24 February 2017). "Gang Signs & Prayer - Stormzy : Songs, Reviews, Credits". All Media Network. Retrieved 27 April 2017. }
  17. ^ Smyth, David (24 February 2017). "Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer review: the grime crown is his". Evening Standard. Retrieved 24 February 2017. 
  18. ^ a b Alexis, Petridis (23 February 2017). "Stormzy: Gang Signs and Prayer review – teeming with original ideas". Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 23 February 2017. 
  19. ^ Andy, Gill (23 February 2017). "Album reviews: Stormzy - Gang Signs & Prayer". The Independent. Retrieved 23 February 2017. }
  20. ^ Paul, Bridgewater (23 February 2017). "Stormzy redefines what it means to be a British institution on Gang Signs & Prayer". The Line of Best Fit. Retrieved 23 February 2017. 
  21. ^ Baber, Andy (28 February 2017). "Stormzy - Gang Signs & Prayer". musicOMH. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 
  22. ^ a b Bassett, Jordan (23 February 2017). "Stormzy – 'Gang Signs & Prayer' Review". Time Inc. UK. Retrieved 23 February 2017. 
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  25. ^ "NME's Albums of the Year 2017". NME. 23 November 2017. Retrieved 28 November 2017. 
  26. ^ "FLIPZ on Twitter: "GSAP sold 68,594 copies 😳😳😳😳Fam madnesssss". Twitter. 3 March 2017. Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  27. ^ "Stormzy defeats Rag'n'Bone Man in one of the closest chart battles in recent memory to score the Official Number 1 album". Official Charts. 3 March 2017. Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  28. ^ "Ed Sheeran's Shape of You rules the Official Singles Chart for an eighth week thanks to Stormzy and Major Lazer remixes". Official Charts. 3 March 2017. Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  29. ^ "BPI Music on Twitter: "He was number 1 in the midweeks and now @Stormzy1's 'Gang Signs & Prayers' has gone Silver in the UK! "". Twitter. 3 March 2017. Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  30. ^ "Australiancharts.com – Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer". Hung Medien. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  31. ^ "ARIA Australian Top 40 Urban Albums". Australian Recording Industry Association. March 13, 2017. Retrieved March 14, 2017. 
  32. ^ "Ultratop.be – Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  33. ^ "Ultratop.be – Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer" (in French). Hung Medien. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  34. ^ "Stormzy Chart History (Canadian Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  35. ^ "Hitlisten.NU – Album Top-40 Uge 9, 2017". Hitlisten. Retrieved 8 March 2017. 
  36. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  37. ^ "Stormzy: Gang Signs & Prayer" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  38. ^ "Irish Albums Chart: 3 March 2017". Irish Recorded Music Association. Retrieved 4 March 2017. 
  39. ^ "NZ Top 40 Albums Chart". Recorded Music NZ. 6 March 2017. Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  40. ^ "VG-lista – Stormzy". VG-lista. Retrieved 4 March 2017. 
  41. ^ "Official Scottish Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  42. ^ "Sverigetopplistan - Sveriges Officiella Topplista". Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved 4 March 2017.  Click on "Veckans albumlista".
  43. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer". Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  44. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  45. ^ "Official Independent Albums Chart Top 50". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  46. ^ "Official R&B Albums Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  47. ^ "British album certifications – Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Gang Signs & Prayer in the search field and then press Enter.
  48. ^ Myers, Justin (9 July 2017). "The Official Top 40 biggest artist albums of 2017 so far". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 9 July 2017.