I went into Little Simz’ third album “Grey Area” totally ignorant. I didn’t know that Simbiatu Abisola Abiola Ajikawo had an acting career, I hadn’t heard her two previous albums, and I knew nothing about her other than she was British and people were excited about her. So imagine my surprise when out of my stereo comes the all-out assault of album opener “Offence,” with its banging drums and Simz’ devastating rhymes. It was, to use a British slang, brilliant.
Little Simz is fiercely lyrical, taking notes from East Coast rappers but delivering it with a British accent. She is also versatile, going from being the baddest B- on “Boss” to being incredibly vulnerable on “Selfish” and “Flowers.” She can rap, she can sing, she can floss, she can be confessional…in short, she can do it all.
Do you like good old fashioned trash talking battle rap? Then check out “Offence” or “Boss,” where she wields bars like “I’m Jay Z on my bad days/Shakespeare on my worst days” with such confidence that you believe her. Do you like socially conscious rap? Then listen to “Wounds,” about people caught up in cycles of violence. Are you feeling Ariana Grande’s confessional R&B? Then check out “Selfish.” Simz has something for everyone.
The beats on the album, supplied by Inflo, take notes from boom bap, reggae, club music, and downtempo. Like Simz, Inflo covers a lot of musical ground and does it well. Highlights for me were the guitar riff of “Boss,” the sinister violins on “Venom,” and the bouncing beat and bright notes of “101 FM.” If I have one complaint about “Grey Area” it is that there are one too many downtempo songs on it. Little Simz is at her best when she is coming out all guns blazing, but a little too often on this album her hyper lyricism is unnecessarily hampered by mellow beats that don’t match her fire.
“Grey Area” deserves all of the accolades it has received. Little Simz is a talented rapper with a broad range. She is raps with fierceness, attitude, sensitivity, and intelligence. Now when can we hear her going toe to toe with some East Coast OGs?