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Published on April 5th, 2019 | by voxx

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Little Simz – Grey Area

The North London MC takes her idiosyncratic hip-hop up a gear…

Over the course of her career, Little Simz has existed in her own grey area between the underground and the mainstream: nothing she’s released has ever made the singles or album charts, but the 24-year-old’s palpable ingenuity means she’s had the praise and high-profile endorsements (Kano, Stormzy, Kendrick Lamar) befitting an artist 10 times her size.

Simz’s lack of commercial success has some obvious roots – her refusal to cleave to hip-hop trends and the public’s general disinterest in UK female rappers among them – but it still feels dispiriting. At a time when grime has begun to stagnate, her ability to make swaggeringly inventive, firmly London-centric rap should be cherished.

Promisingly, her third album provides the most crystalline evidence of her talents to date, crawling with unchecked energy and weird ideas. On lead single ‘Offence’, her rapid-fire, braggadocio-doused flow dances over eerie woodwind accents, tinkling piano and a noise halfway between a saxophone and a haunted doll. ‘Boss’ features a furious and wildly distorted soul hook that recalls The Sonics as much as James Brown, while ‘101 FM’ is an outpouring of childhood nostalgia paired with a pulsing videogame beat and an oriental-sounding synth riff.

Neatly offsetting all that effervescent brilliance are palate-cleansing slices of blissful R&B, vintage soul and loping reggae, featuring the likes of Chronixx and Michael Kiwanuka. Thrilling, thoughtful and unrestrained by existing rap templates, Grey Area confirms Little Simz as an artist who is increasingly difficult to dismiss.

- By Jake White


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