“Grey AREA” is Little Simz third studio album. Less experimental than her other albums, “Grey AREA” showcases the young rapper’s lyrical ability.
Bars > Hooks
With so much of hip-hop being dominated by Trap beats and a catchy hook, it’s nice to get an album full of good old fashioned lyricism. Little Simz isn’t afraid to do the heavy lifting. Even though she’s gotten co-signs from hip-hop royalty such as Kendrick Lamar and Lauryn Hill, she’s the only rapper who appears on “Grey AREA.”
She doesn’t need guest appearances and she doesn’t need hooks either. On “Venom” and “Pressure”, she eschews all but the simplest of hooks in favor of her flurry of bars. On both tracks Simz challenges any who would question her place in hip-hop. Simz talks about what it’s like to be a female in the hip-hop game on “Venom”:
“F**k those who don’t believe/They would never wanna admit I’m the best here/From the mere fact that I’ve got ovaries/It’s a woman’s world, so to speak/P***y, you sour/Never givin’ credit where it’s do ’cause you don’t like p***y in power.”
On “Pressure” she broadens her critique from the misogyny of hip-hop to the larger problems facing society. Both songs make mention of her personal struggles which she addresses in further detail later in the album.
Peeling back the layers
If “Venom” and “Pressure” are the chest-beating braggarts of the album, “Therapy” and “Sherbert Sunset” are the album’s heart. “Grey AREA” progresses past Little Simz’s pose as a tough gal who has to flex her verbal muscles to show the world she’s not hurt. After establishing the fact that she’s a highly capable MC, she opens up and goes into detail about her personal struggles.
“Therapy” establishes that Simz is suffering from heartbreak and doesn’t really think therapy or talking about it will help. On “Sherbert Sunset” she doubles down on that theme:
“Lately I been down a lot/I talk to no one about it/Can’t even write about it, damn this writer’s block.”
Even though the album hints at melancholy early on (first heard on “Wounds”, featuring the crooning of Jamaican reggae artist Chronixx) it approaches the theme slowly, peeling back the layers until Little Simz is completely exposed. By the end of the album she’s worked out her problems on wax. It’s not that she has a definite answer, but at least she can finally express how she feels.
From the first drums on the opening track of “Grey AREA”, I was locked in to the album. Simz has said that she found the encouragement from Lauryn Hill and Kendrick Lamar inspiring, but the first thing that came to mind as I listened to “Offence” wasn’t those artists but instead, The Roots. The spirit of the album seemed to suggest the spontaneity that The Roots’ live instrumentation encourages.
While “Grey AREA” isn’t as varied as her other work, it is a showcase of her lyrical ability. Little Simz has two or three verses on the album that could be halved and that shortened version would be the best verse on many a rap album in 2019.
Little Simz isn’t content to prove that she can rap; she also wants to share a part of herself. That’s what elevates the album and makes it a more meaningful piece of art. Little Simz lays herself bare and, as she says, on”Grey AREA” we all “get in her feels” with her.