“I’ve got some things to say”: London rapper Little Simz on her incredible third album ‘GREY Area’

The rapper’s third studio album, ‘GREY Area’, is the best rap record of the year so far, and it should be her commercial breakthrough. Here, she tells NME how the rabble-rousing project came to be – and what she learned from Damon Albarn

Just to be absolutely clear about this: north London rapper Little Simz – aka Simbi Ajikawo – has made the greatest rap record of the year so far, and it’s hard to imagine anyone outdoing it.

‘Grey Area’ is a a huge step-up for the already incredibly accomplished musician, a bold and immediate album stuffed with hooks and killer statements (“I said it with my chest and I don’t care who I offend – uh huh!”) that should, if there’s any justice in the world, see her break through to bonafide mainstream success. As the NME review had it: “She’s crafted a knockout record – and finally come true on her early promise.”

Before the record came out, NME met Little Simz to talk about ‘Grey Area’, comparing herself to Picasso, Shakespeare and Jay-Z and how her our with Gorillaz changed her live shows (see the video above).

“I’ve kept [the album] short and precise – it’s 10 songs, it’s, ‘Give it to ’em and get out’,” she explained. “It feels very direct and to-the-point.” Of those shows with Gorillaz (she appeared on their huge song ‘Garage Palace’), she told us: “Of course when I imagined myself onstage as a young’n’ I imagined doing arenas and doing stadiums and all these things. When I got put in that position – I’m so used to doing small club sets – I would have to learn to interact with a crowd on that scale and still make it feel intimate.”

While we had her, we also showed Simz some daft pictures for Show & Tell, and she waxed lyrical on Jay-Z, Sunny Delight (why not?) and why she always dreamed of seeing her music in HMV (unlucky) – watch that below.

It’s on the fantastic ‘Offence’, the first track on the album that Simz asserts, “Picasso with the pen / Jay-Z on a bad day / Shakespeare on my worst days.” But who, from the above, would she most like to spend a day with?

“Probably Shakespeare,” she says. “I’d like to pick his brains.” Given the amazing wordplay on ‘Grey Area’, ol’ Willie might have a few questions to ask in return.

– Little Simz plays All Points East festival in London on 24th May