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