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Why Stormzy Reaching Number One Is A Huge Deal For Grime

We explore the cultural significance of Stormzy's Gang Signs and Prayers.

3rd Mar 2017

Image Credit: Flavour Mag

The release of Stormzy’s latest album ‘Gang Signs and Prayer’ represented a huge moment for Grime.

It may seem long ago now but previously Grime was rejected by mainstream radio stations, considered a subgenre and branded as a misrepresentation of British culture which was consistently ignored for the hard truths and frustrations it exposed about London life. It was a long and difficult struggle for many of the pioneers of the London based movement such as Godfather Wiley but now is a time when every artist who has contributed to the movement can proudly claim that Grime is the flagship of British music and culture.

An Open Book

The album Gang Signs and Prayer has transcended the genre by uniquely blending Gospel inflections with hard – hitting lyrical truths about the struggles of growing up as a black youth in South East London through a fantastic display of artistry. Stormzy draws in listeners from all walks of life, narrating his story and take them through a powerful journey in this 16-track masterpiece. With collaborations with the likes of fellow Grime talisman Wretch 32 and Ghetts to RnB starlet Kehlani, the versatility of the album is the quality of which will make the whole UK music scene proud.

Touching the hearts of some of the UK’s most talented stars of different fields from fellow London rapper Skepta to ex England captain Rio Ferdinand, everyone can appreciate this open book album and how its arrival symbolises something which has been brewing since last year – the mainstream acceptance of Grime music. Currently, set to go number one in its first week which will cement Stormzy in British Chart History as having a number one Grime album. Achieving this feat so early on in the year is a good sign that Grime will continue to be the cultural powerhouse that it was last year. ‘Gangs Signs and Prayer’ is a real success story and having listened to the album in full, any listener gets feeling that they know the artist personally, one of the main signs of a well-executed album.

Merky Marketing

Stormzy’s organic fan base who have passionately made parts of Twitter their fortress have been quick to show praise for the star for representing London the right way on his album. Stormzy bravely called out radio station LBC on his album who blindly blamed Grime for social issues such as the rise of knife crime and are now in the uncomfortable position of having to accept that the movement is something positive to London Youth.

The release of the album signifies an important moment for the rapper, the launch of his new independent Merky label. Always keeping his circle tight Stormzy talks about how he has always trusted his manager Flipz (often shouted out in his songs) and it has been the right choice – his marketing campaign surrounding the album has been flawless. From cryptic message boards around some of London’s biggest cultural hotspots like Shoreditch to surprise gigs at megamall Westfields and his hometown Boxpark Croydon in the space of just a week – Stormzy and his team could orchestrate some memorable moments and kept things exciting. Of course he has done the usual BBC interviews but has still managed to stay authentic and showcase his likeable character.

What’s next?

Grime is not just the greatest representation of Britain because of the waves it has made in music but also because what it has transformed fashion and culture. ‘Streetwear’ is now what high street fashion chains are frantically turning to. Adidas tracksuits are genuinely symbolic of modern London fashion, popularised by Stormzy and now adopted by the middle class. Debates have been sparked about the cultural appropriation of lower class black struggles and will certainly continue as Grime makes its way around the world but just like Hip Hop, Grime is becoming a global genre and is making inroads in countries such as Japan, Australia and Germany and if artists who live the culture are able to profit from it there can’t be too many complaints.

From university students reciting the words to ‘Shut Up’ to the Chicken Connoisseur becoming a household name around the UK (another embodiment of London Black culture), Black British culture is something which should be protected but also defiantly championed. It has taken some time for Grime to make it to the top, now it’s time to cement its place and make way for a new generation of Grime artists to honour the legends who worked so hard to pave the way.

Listen to ‘Gang Signs and Prayer’ below:

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UK Hip Hop Grime