Little Simz is one of those performers who refuse to take the easy option. The London rapper does not have a conventional record deal, preferring to self-release her music. Her last album, Stillness in Wonderland, was an idiosyncratic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland-themed concept record that came with a comic book and one-off mini-festival.
Grey Area is her third album. It follows a period of uncertainty about the independent career direction she has chosen to take. The first two songs have the sound of something being disassembled and then put back together. “Offence” breaks down the components of a blaxploitation-film-sampling old-school rap track, while “Boss” evokes the feel of a 1990s Beastie Boys song. Both styles are reassembled for the purposes of a young Londoner in 2019, spitting braggadocious verses about how great she is (“I’m Jay-Z on a bad day, Shakespeare on my worst days”).
Made with producer Inflo, a childhood friend, the 10 tracks fit together like the pieces of jigsaw. “Wounds” is an anti-gun violence track in which Simz’s fast flow of words contrasts with Jamaican reggae singer Chronixx’s lamenting guest vocal. “Venom” sets a blistering diatribe against sexist men to an ice-cold beat. “Therapy” evokes Simz’s collaborations with Gorillaz. “Flowers” brings a highly impressive display of musical versatility to a close with a relaxed drift into cosmic soul, aided by a cameo turn from Michael Kiwanuka.
‘Grey Area’ is released by Age 101/AWAL Recordings
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