I just need to say that I’ve been waiting oh so patiently for this album. And when I tell you, it did not disappoint!
Little Simz is an artist who is so respected but for some reason has never blown commercially. Her latest album 'Grey Area' is an introvert’s self-confessional that was born after surviving war. (If you’ve ever been to Amsterdam, you may agree with my interpretation of the album title…I’ll just leave that there). Now you may ask, surviving war with whom? Well the rest of the album makes that quite clear. Simz is real in a way that makes you feel like she’s invited you into her living room. You’ve taken off your shoes, and you’re sat cross legged, intently listening to her spin her truths into effortless bars against the back drop of elite production.
‘Selfish’ talks about the self-love that you wrap yourself with, in the immediate aftermath of a break-up. You wear it like protective armour at first, but it soon settles and begins to fit like a second skin. At this point, you’ve finally realised that you deserve better than what you were been putting up with. So you tear away from the path of acceptance passed down by so many women before you, and engage in a single act of rebellion. Making the choice to just do you, despite what anybody else thinks. So yes, maybe you could be seen as selfish right?
Simz jumps on the beat with the ease only real talent allows, admitting to having a big ego embedded through her heritage, a nice little nod to her Nigerian roots. The song tells the tale of a woman who has been hurt, but still understands her own self –worth. She knows that it was him not her, that ‘he couldn’t hold a woman of (her) calibre’. But regardless, it’s alright because things are only meant to ‘be in the Divine’s time’. So for now she’s just going to put herself together and heal. Everything else will follow as it’s meant to.
‘Wounds’ then eases in with a guitar, and Simz goes on to pen an open love letter to the youth of London. Her words come from a place of understanding, rather than the judgement that comes with privilege. She focuses on UK street culture, and the fact that these kids idolise artists who rap about a lifestyle they’ve never lived. She lets them know that in the end, they’re only leading themselves to an inevitable fate… just becoming another headline. So she asks them, “Is your life really worth that risk?” Chronixx’s comforting serenade rings true of an older brother figure who assures them that there’s more to this life, that ultimately ‘love is (their) destiny’.
Honestly the whole song gives me chills, but Chronixx’s question at the end leaves food for thought, “Gunman, tell me where you get your gun from?”
It’s a question that says so much with so little. Think about it. Yes all rap is art, but why is it that only particular types of rap are pushed into the mainstream? Who ultimately profits from us doing this to each other…?
The rest of the album is equally as emotive and thought provoking, I felt every lyric like I bore witness to the scenarios that inspired them. And if you know me, a deep dive into each song one by one would not be out of the question! But alas, I’ll save you guys from having to read an entire novel. In '101 FM' you can picture a young Simz circa 2008, dreaming of 'getting out of the flats', rocking her 'Air Forces and New Era hat'. She makes it easy to share in her pride at how far she’s come. 'Therapy' and 'Sherbet Sunset' give a bit more context to Selfish, and ultimately some of the inspiration behind the whole album. She shows us that clearly music is her self-medication, telling us that she is ‘really a sensitive soul, so what happens when someone takes advantage of that?’
Well, a lyrical masterpiece is what.
To end the album, Little Simz lets us know that yes, she is well aware that she is overlooked in the industry, despite her surpassing most in terms of talent. In 'Flowers', she alludes to the idea that we don’t give people their flowers when they are alive to receive them, using the infamous 27 club to illustrate her point. Members of which include Amy Winehouse, Curt Cobain, Basquiat and Jimi Hendrixx to name a few, artists who all died at 27 years old.
In 'Grey Area' Little Simz is not begging you to recognise her, nor is she raging against the machine. She is simply saying that whether you realise now or later, she’s already won.