Little Simz: Grey Area review – call to arms as rapper finds her feet

(Age 101)

On her third album, the famously introverted north Londoner Simbi Ajikawo reaches outwards. Gloriously self-assured and grounded, Grey Area feels fuller than her myriad EPs and two preceding albums. She frees herself from self-consciousness on opener Offence, with “I said it with my chest / and I don’t care who I offend” setting the tone.

Little Simz: Grey Area album artwork
Little Simz: Grey Area album artwork Photograph: Publicity image

Even though the language of emancipation has been cynically co-opted by brands, Simz’s call to arms feels real, visceral and rousing. “I’m a boss in a fucking dress,” she declares on Boss, almost screaming over minimal funk bass. “They will never want to admit I’m the best here / For the mere fact that I’ve got ovaries,” she deadpans on the trip-hop tinged Venom. Grey Area would feel one-note, if Simz’s only mode was conviction: elsewhere, she contemplates her demons, admonishes her ambitions (“People are dying / Who gives a fuck about making hits?”) and grapples with the concept of seeing a therapist. Yet even as she’s mining her doubts, her bold delivery and precise, revelled-in flow underpin her growing self-belief. The features – Michael Kiwanuka, Cleo Sol singing the tender refrain of Selfish, among others – are sweet embellishments that complement Simz’s harder tones, as does the production from her old friend Inflo, who pairs fuzzy guitars and orchestral flourishes with pared-back, boom-bap soul. At once soft and hard, fiery and vulnerable, Grey Area finds Little Simz thriving in her multi-facetedness.


Tara Joshi

The GuardianTramp

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