Versatility and individualism are at the core of Simbiatu Abisola Abiola Ajikawo’s being. From her sharp-tongued lyricism to her acting work, Little Simz has proven that she can do just about anything she puts her mind to. Hell, just by looking at her name, it is plain to see that “Simbi” is a force to be reckoned with. All of this is backed up by her dense catalog of music. At the young age of 25, Little Simz has released seven EPs, four mixtapes and now three full-length albums. Through this time she has caught the attention of acts such as Gorillaz, Estelle and Kendrick Lamar. With this immense attention on her name, some might assume Simz would be overwhelmed with pressure. These people clearly have never listened to Simbi’s music. On GREY Area, Little Simz proves who she is to her nonbelievers. She is a meticulous emcee, talented singer and most importantly, an absolutely fearless human being.
Right away, Little Simz proves she is at the top of her game with the introduction track “Offence.” Syncopated drums crunch away under a distorted and twisted bassline. Lastly, bits of cartoonish noir are intercut into the production to give the track an atmospheric feel. Over this powerful instrumental, Simz spits bouts of braggadocio. Her delivery is furious, and her threats to her enemies feel menacing. She assures listeners that she is “Jay-Z on her bad days” and “Shakespeare on her worst days.” This line cleverly boosts up her image. It also validates urban poetry when being compared to the likes of more “white” forms of literature. The dual-purpose poetry that is found in this bar is what makes Little Simz so special as a rapper. Her lyrics often cannot just be taken at surface level. There is more often than not deeper meaning behind every bar she crafts.
“Selfish” further showcases Simz’s versatility as she flows over a groovy bassline. The more minimal nature of this track allows Simz to shine. Cleo Sol’s somber voice floats eerily over the track in contrast to Simz’s defiantly confident verses. In her verses, she states the importance of self-care. She knows that she is the only voice that truly matters to her at the end of the day. The positivity and self-love displayed in the verses are paired with echoes of selfishness in the chorus. This track expertly explores the line between self-love and selfishness. At the end of the day, Simz seems confident in herself regardless of her occasional thoughts or anxieties.
“Therapy” is perhaps the best song on the entire album. “Therapy” features an off-kilter, behind the beat flow. With less instrumental progression than many tracks on this record, this track serves as a canvas for Simz to set her worries free. She detests therapy in the track and wonders why she makes the effort to go there in the first place. This track sees a more vulnerable Simz as she sounds distraught. She has a lot to uncover and almost proves why therapy is necessary in her vast denial. Her friends, family and even herself have disappointed her at times, but the more she talks about it, the more the pain is unburdened. Obviously, the healing time is quite exaggerated, but this track really does serve as a microcosm of the therapy process itself. By the end of the track, Simz says, “If my daughter is anything like me, then I’m raising a king.” This proves that deep down, beyond all of that worry, Simz is a confident and self-loving individual. Even if it is hard to see sometimes, you can always reach a place of self-love if you constantly work on it.
At the end of the day, GREY Area is nothing short of remarkable. It is a trimmed down, no-filler project full of snarky jokes, personal anecdotes and pure character. The production is equal parts punchy and melodic. The lyricism is rich in both sentiment and technicality. All ten of these tracks have been crafted with an immense amount of care. This project really does feel like the culmination of all of Little Simz’s work. Considering the strength of her previous work, that easily makes this one of the best hip-hop albums of 2019.