Stormzy's 'Gang Signs & Prayers' Is Officially Number One In The Albums Chart

In an intense musical battle with Rag'n'Bone Man's album Human, Stormzy's debut album Gang Signs & Prayers has clinched the number one spot on this week's album chart.

The grime artist released the record last week and reportedly stormed ahead of Rag'n'Bone Man's offering. 58 percent of the sales of Gang Signs & Prayers have come from digital downloads, compared to 23 percent from physical copies and around 20 percent from streaming, according to the Official Albums Chart Top 40.

Congratulations, Stormzy - a self-made man.

You may not know it but Croydon-born Michael Omari, sacked off a potential Oxford education in favour of pursuing a career in music. "In school, all my teachers and my mum were super routing [sic] for me to study at Oxford. I picked music as a career choice and this didn't sit to well with them!"

His teachers might not have liked his decision, but given that at only 23 years of age he's already got two consecutive MOBOs under his belt for best Grime act, has toured the world, sold almost a million records and played a key role in thrusting his genre into the mainstream, we'd argue that he definitely made the right choice.

The 'Shut Up' star claims he didn't grow up in a musical family, but regardless of that he soon got caught up in the scene himself.

As kids, the launch of urban music TV station Channel U in 2003 was a major influence for Stormzy and his friends. From the age of 11 he says that they would spend their spare time downloading instrumentals from Limewire (never forget. RIP so many family computers) and take turns MCing over them.

Stormzy
Stormzy

Credit: PA Images

"There was no dream of becoming a superstar. But you'd hope that one day you'd get on Channel U. The MCs on there, they were the stars for us," he says.

Grime may be a lot bigger now thanks to the likes of Stormzy, JME, Skepta and Kano's mainstream success, but it's been bubbling away in the underground for years and this particular lad was raised on it.

Omari is one of the first generation of British MCs to have grown up entirely on UK influence. Saying that, while most of his older peers got into rapping via the likes of Tupac, Mobb Deep and Biggie, he listened to Lethal B and Kano Vs. Wiley. Maybe it's this solely British influence that gives his music its edge.

During his teenage years, Stormzy had his own crew called DDB and it was in these adolescent years that he first started 'clashing' with other young MCs at youth clubs in South London. This was where he developed his unique style of spitting and was schooled by an older MC named Charms, who he says mentored him and helped him to grow.

While most kids his age were playing footy with a penny floater and their school jumpers as makeshift goalposts, a young Stormzy was out clashing with other MCs.

"There was a place called Rap Academy in my area. They had decks and there would be instrumentals playing all the time, and I'd just hog the mic all night and spit," he says.

Up until this point his music had been nothing but a hobby, but when Stormzy turned 20, he launched the YouTube channel that would soon send him hurtling into the spotlight.

On the 'Wicked Skengman' YouTube series, the South London MC would spit over classic grime tunes and soon amassed a loyal following. An EP, Dreamers Disease, quickly followed in 2014, showcasing a wide range of styles. He says: "I wanted to get all those sounds out of me, and show I'm not just grime."

Stormzy
Stormzy

Credit: PA Images

It was Dreamers Disease that got Stormzy spotted by none other than the legend that is Jools Holland, inviting him to perform on his iconic TV show. This propelled him even further forward and it wasn't long before the kid who would never get off the mic at youth club was up on stage accepting the first of what would become two MOBOs for Best Grime Act.

However, arguably the biggest catalyst for Stormzy's mainstream success came in 2015, in the form of a YouTube freestyle video, shot in a park, entitled Shut Up. It went viral and is currently sitting at not far off 50 million views. This was the same year that Stormzy received his second MOBO and appeared on stage with Kanye West.

Since then the grime star has been touring and focusing on writing his debut album, Gang Signs & Prayer, which dropped on 24th September.

We're sure it's going to be his biggest success to date and that Stormzy is going to become one of the most talked-about names of 2017. He's already a legend.

Words: Paddy Maddison

Featured Image Credit: PA Images

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