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Little Simz is unapologetically herself on ‘GREY Area’

| Friday, March 29, 2019

Diane Park | The Observer

British MC Little Simz is tired of being “underrated,” and the drive to progress and hone her craft as a musician and lyricist certainly shows on her new album “GREY Area.”

When discussing her work with the Independent, Simz said she has grown more comfortable with her place in the rap world.

“Sometimes I go on my Twitter and I see comments like ‘Simz is so stepped on, so underrated’ … I’m over it,” she said. “I’m just putting my energy into the people who have been supporting, and who get it and understand what I’m trying to do.”

She later said there was a point in her career where she was stuck in a creative rut without any understanding of ways to improve her work and transcend the “underrated” state she felt trapped in.

A transition from her last album, “Stillness in Wonderland,” “GREY Area” points to the way in which Simz has been able to remove herself from a creative impasse and progress as an artist. The dreamy atmospheres found on “Stillness in Wonderland” are replaced by atmospheres firmly grounded in reality.

Simz’s new effort feels concise — a refinement from her previous album that, while good, was criticized for a lack of coherency and linear style. Simz almost acknowledges the beginning of a new, distinct chapter in her music, asking the listener on her opening track, “Offence,” to “Allow [her] to pick up where I left off.”

Picking up where she left off, for Simz, is a continuation and refinement of the storytelling, lyricism and creativity found on “Stillness in Wonderland.” Ultimately, there was more of Simz’s story to be told in “GREY Area.” On this project, her storytelling endeavors improve in breadth and quality in comparison with her first two full-length efforts.

In an interview with Noisey, she explains that “GREY Area” was the process of “peeling off layers to [herself].”

“It was like growing pains, you know?” she said in the interview. “That’s the best way I can describe it.”

The themes covered by this album support that narrative as Simz transitions between tracks that are unabashedly self-confident and tracks like “Therapy” that talk about Simz’s introversion and her search for clarity.

On the album’s opener, “Offence,” Little Simz’s braggadocios bars take front and center as she raps, “I’m Jay-Z on a bad day / Shakespeare on my worst days.”

“Offence,” as well as many other tracks off of “GREY Area,” paint Simz as a seasoned lyrical veteran. She does, in fact, sound older than her years, as if she has long been honing her lyrical swagger and skill in the British underground MC and cypher scene.

The confidence that exudes from tracks like “Offence” is contrasted by the vulnerability Simz shows in other places throughout the album, especially on the track “Sherbet Sunset”:

“Who am I? I’m a mess, more sinning, more spending / More down days trying to make it through the seventh / Can’t believe I almost got rid of my independence / Type of f— will have you look at yourself and start second guessing?”

She lyrically rides the smooth production on this song, departing from the more intense, lyrical crescendo that preceded.

There is nothing insanely groundbreaking or progressive about “GREY Area.” However, that’s OK. The quality lyricism, production and overall creative effort from Simz’s latest work will stand as one of the best rap albums of the year, ushering in new recognition for current and future British MCs. I thoroughly enjoyed every single track on this project, and I’m really looking forward to hear what comes next.

Artist: Little Simz

Album: “GREY Area”

Label: AGE 101

Favorite Tracks: “Offence,” “Venom,” “Sherbet Sunset,” “Flowers”

If you like: Saba, Anderson .Paak, IAMDDB

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

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