“Me again- let me pick up where I left off” Simbi Ajikwo AKA Little Simz quips as the grizzled, thumping chords to ‘No Offence’, the first track, leave no grey areas in the delivery of her third studio album. ‘Boss’ seamlessly follows, a lo-fi swampy track to which Simz drawls and spits the lyrics, her potty mouth matched by the rage and intent she maps out her lyrics with- ‘I’m a boss in a fucking dress…stay in line!’
Grey Area is most definitely an album with intent. Part punk-tinged-rap, part smooth, soul-infused hip-hop. Genre bending it may be, but everything Simz releases is indisputably her. The record flicks from blues to soul in the sleazy, sun-soaked ‘Selfish’, pulling you into hazy California with her as London R’n’B crooner Cleo Sol layers harmonies over muted slap bass in the background. The rapper’s confidence in her delivery and the meaning behind every single word is what makes her sound work so well, and her growth as a lyricist and rapper is matched by the arrangements in each track, putting laptop producers to shame and pitting her alongside trailblazers such Casisdead and Anderson Paak with her originality and musicianship.
‘101 fm’ is a sweet slice of jagged pop and is, in a way, the album’s standout track. The song is addictive and nostalgic and the melody’s “clicks” and “whirrs” could’ve been ripped straight from your local pirate radio. Simz reminisces how ‘we used to have dreams of getting out of the flats’- she knew she had it all along.
The acerbic ‘Pressure’ is a ballad of razor-sharp lyrical genius as Simz implores you to “take a walk in my shoes, or any other young black person in this age- all we ever known is pain; all we ever know is rage”. And as a white woman I can’t take a walk in her shoes, but I can fucking listen. And we should all be listening.