APRIL: GREY Area by Little Simz

Well, well, well. What a little belter this is.

Little Simz AKA Simbiatu “Simbi” Abisola Abiola Ajikawo (can see why she went for the shortened nickname) has been knocking around for a few years. I heard a couple of tracks that I really liked without falling in love with. She did stand out from her peers by seeming less interested in the beats of grime and more the classic beats of old skool hip hop.

So I admit it – I initially dismissed her a bit as a promising UK hip hop like a million before her that was full of promise but hadn’t quite delivered THAT track.

And then I heard OFFENCE. Jesus H Christ. What a ridiculous beast of a track that is. It became a genuine crossover that was being played on 6Music AND Radio 1 AND Capital (which I know, thanks to my kids).

Still, I approached this album expecting 10 tracks of more of the same. What I wasn’t expecting was such a rich, inventive brew, so full of creativity and painted on such a wide canvas.

Influences? Oh man, where to start? The nu-soul meets hip hop of Anderson .Paak and K-Os (of old!) on tracks like WOUNDS. SELFISH is basically a gorgeous RnB pop song but with a rap holding it together. VENOM’s flow feels like a grime style and BOSS is a great track 2 choice, smacking you right in the face. FLOWERS could be a collaboration with Cinematic Orchestra, and obvs Michael Kiwanuka is always a seal of quality.

So much to love on here – the live band and instrumentation gives it a blaxploitation film score vibe. Everywhere there are surprises – fresh samples, unusual arrangements. This is a really ambitious album made to aim high, and it nearly completely delivers.

Finally – oh joy of joy – it’s got NO SKITS and it’s a tight, punch 35 minutes long. How many hip hop albums could learn from this?

I notice she right at the top of the bill of one of the Coachella stages. She’s that good. Not surprised the US is noticing.

Any criticisms? Maybe her delivery and flow is a little bit monotonous at times, but lyrically it’s bloody brilliant – and she works around that by making each song such a uniquely constructed entity.

So yeah. I LOVE this album and I’m sure it’ll end up in my top 10 at the end of the year. How about you, Brothers?

6 comments

  1. nolankane706

    WTF… this is silly this album. I can just see brother Joseph’s bass face kicking in when ‘Boss’ comes on. Sheet!

    There are allot of female MC’s that have done some pretty impressive stuff in the past but I’m struggling to think of many that have been able to create an end to end album like this. She can spit, and her content is so good!

    I’m with David on this. The album moves around nicely. I get the K-Os reference as he did this really well. There is allot to be said about her energy. That mixed with some fantastic lines … “You likkle rodents went and fell into my mice trap, you can send a diss I will never write back”…. Ew!

    Have you seen clip from Sway In The Morning? There’s a point where you think she’s going to bottle it, and she kills it! I had an argument with brother Joey for so many years about UK MC’s just not cutting it. That time has passed; there are so many amazing UK MC’s

    This album is strong; really strong. I’m still fully digging into it but after about 10 listens its’ a winner.

  2. whyohwhyohwhy

    Sorry for the late response. Been a bit busy moving halfway up the country lately.

    This is worth the wait though. As you all know, I’m not exactly “Mr Contemporary Rap / R’n’b” on here, so I wasn’t sure what to expect here, bar a mix of mild disappointment and feeling very old. So blow me down, as Grey Area is HEFTY. I’d only known Selfish from 6Music, but the rest of the album really is no filler, all killer.

    The beats and hooks are fantastic, the lyrics fierce and unashamedly soul-baring, and the collabs are really good. At first few listens I can’t find much fault here, aside from the fact that I can’t really play it in the house.

    More soon, great choice!

  3. misterstory

    I don’t know why but I didn’t bring a good vibe into this one. I think I thought I knew what I was getting. I think I thought i knew who she was. I was wrong. I didn’t. I bloody do now. I put this on headphones one evening while doing house and life crap. My initial reaction was ‘really!? … interesting choice’ and got on with my jobs. Then I realized I was smiling and dad-dancing. Then I realized it was 90 minutes later which means I’d gone through it 3 times. 10 tracks, 35 minutes, NO SKITS! Look, I don’t think it’s perfect. ‘Flowers’ is a little on the nose and I prefer the live band, distorted bass focused tracks but this is SO SO SOOOOO listenable. Mostly I listen to it in the gym because effing and jeffing but this is 100% my gym soundtrack. I’ll be listening to this in Dec. It will be one of my AOTY. Thanks David. Nolan’s right ‘Boss’ is my track. I keep on singing I don’t need that stress, that stress,Im a boss in a fucking dress’ a little too loud in the squat rack.

  4. David Allison

    “I keep on singing I don’t need that stress, that stress,Im a boss in a fucking dress’ a little too loud in the squat rack.”

    – comment of the year!

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