Life in every sense is rarely black and white, and Little Simz proves that with her third album GREY Area.
Simz has produced a body of work that captures the intimate, transitory period of an individual going through their 20s. After working with musical giants such as Lauryn Hill and Gorillaz, and earning praise from Kendrick Lamar, Little Simz finds her voice with “GREY Area.”
She translates her personal experiences and observations into a narrative commentary that captures the essence of growth and development. By blending aspects of neo-soul, experimental funk and hip-hop, Simz packs her album with focus and power that permeates throughout.
GREY Area stands in stark contrast with Simz’s sophomore album Stillness in Wonderland. While the latter relied heavily on imagination and conceptual representation, GREY Area is unapologetically solid. It represents a torrential release of thought and emotion that’s both raw and hard, yet open to interpretation.
In her work, Simz is able to balance a myriad of emotions and feelings and speak on multiple layers of human personality. She creates songs evoking pride in one’s sense of self while also detailing her own self-doubt.
Opening tracks “Offence” and “Boss” seamlessly flow into each other and allow Simz to generate an almost unstoppable momentum. In the former song, Simz introduces her strength with lines like, “I’m Jay-Z on a bad day, Shakespeare on my worst days.” She exudes confidence with these words without mindlessly boasting. Simz takes agency of her accomplishments and doesn’t let them overshadow the totality of her journey.
GREY Area begins with a punch, but it makes the following themes of self-introspection more potent as the listener delves deeper into Simz’s work.
The midpoint of GREY Area is defined by a tonal change where Simz balances concepts of depravity and nostalgia. After coming down from the high set up by the album’s intro, Simz displays vulnerability and incorporates that into her narrative. She refuses to shy away from the chaotic state of her mental health and instead highlights it. Simz proves that insecurity isn’t grounds for fear and shame, but rather a subject to explore.
In the first verse of her track “Venom,” Simz boldly states, “Life sucks and I never tried suicide/Mind’s f---ed even more than I realize.” With these lines she casts an image that’s visceral, but still feels authentic. Through this track — and the entirety of GREY Area — Simz doesn’t seek to conceal the meaning of her words or feelings, nor is she pandering in her expression of pain.
The closing of GREY Area further builds from an incredibly strong foundation. The rapper ends her album with a flow that’s infused with softness and a quiet resolve. In the innocently titled track “Sherbet Sunset,” Simz displays her sensitivity with pleas to an unknown authority and acknowledges her imperfections. She expresses her desire to not only be acknowledged as a human who feels, but also as a self-assured soul.
In the closing track, “Flowers,” she utilizes the passing of young musicians to create a feeling of loss, but by her final verse, Simz crafts an atmosphere of hope. Simz concludes GREY Area on a note that is undoubtedly somber but also resolute. She presents a maturity that goes beyond her 25 years.
But what’s most amazing is that with just 10 songs and 35 minutes, Little Simz has created a work that is truly honest. With GREY Area, Simz has been able to look inside herself for meaning, but also extended that ability to her listeners. In an album which blends bravado with insecurity and power with vulnerability, Simz gives her audience an opportunity to engage in their own self-reflection.