8. Stormzy, 'Gang Signs & Prayer'
While American rap further explores the druggy recesses and third-generation abstractions of Atlanta trap, South London grime king Michael "Stormzy" Omari stomps into the cipher. Gang Signs' sophisticated sound, overseen by multi-instrumentalist and former Craig David guitarist Fraser T Smith, evokes a conflicted mise en scène – street and gospel, cutting and compassionate, brash and humble, indomitable and vulnerable. The darting woodwind riff and spare bass punctuation of "Shut Up" (co-produced by XTC) give the MC's rolling flow a languid tension; the snare snap and strings of "Don't Cry for Me" (by Wizzy Wow) urge on Stormzy's regretful look at his Croydon home; single "Big for Your Boots" (by Sir Spyro) skips with glee; and the sinister slither of "First Things First" (by Mura Masa) frames a gruff confession – "Dark times, niggas dying in recession/You was fighting with your girl when I was fighting my depression." C.A.