On April 24th, exactly a month and a day into the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown, Little Simz took to Instagram to post a heartfelt note announcing her new EP ‘Drop 6’, the sixth instalment of her early-career ‘Drop’ series of EPs that she delivered in quick succession between 2014 and 2015.
In the lengthy message to fans, the London rapper opened up about how the crisis had been affecting her both personally and creatively, summing up a feeling many were wrestling with when she wrote: “I don’t mind being alone. I quite enjoy my own company actually. However choosing to be alone is different from being forced to be alone and that’s where the difficulty comes in.”
The situation came as a stark contrast for Simz, whose 2019 had been – by the star’s own measure – “probably the best year of my life”. Having released a breakthrough album in the form of the Mercury Prize-nominated ‘Grey Area’, nabbed an NME Award as well as starring in the Top Boy reboot, the star was “doing what I loved and I was on a high”. Life suddenly grinding to a halt was quite understandably a big change of pace for Simz: “I’m a workaholic. Always have been, probably always will be. Practicing stillness is a challenge.”
On ‘you should call mum’, a poignant highlight from her new five-track release, Simz admits: “Guess life forced me to calm down, get my mind right / Livin’ day by day, sleepless night by night / Bored out of my mind / How many naps can I take? / How many songs can I write?” Thankfully for us, Simz clearly opted to write more and nap less.
Simz’s previous album had been born out of dark times and, likewise, on ‘Drop 6’ the 26-year-old tries to find a silver lining in challenging times; the resulting record itself a time capsule of lockdown life – a rough-edged release that includes much of the push and pull between introspection, catharsis and careful optimism that we all know too well in these isolated times. It also has a palpable sense of freedom to it, with quarantine allowing artists greater room to experiment consequence-free.
Simz has spoken about the self-doubt she at times felt while putting the record together and on ‘one life, might live’, we find the star reminding herself of the greatness that’s in her: “This’ll be the realest story that I’ve ever told / This’ll be my best song, you can see my scars”. Its chorus, meanwhile, looks ahead to better times: “I got one life and I might just live it”.
On opening track ‘might bang, might not’, Simz sounds more restless and fired up though, as she spits: “You ain’t seen no one like me since Lauryn Hill back in the ’90s”, while closer ‘where’s my lighter’ promises what’s coming next: “I’m focusin’ on my next masterpiece / Breakin’ my back to make sure my family eats like.”
In contrast to the expansive and dynamic production heard on ‘Grey Area’, the back-bone of ‘Drop 6’ is far more skeletal, obviously due to the short period over which the tracks were assembled as well as the home studio setting Simz would have found herself in. ‘damn right’ couples a stuttering trap beat with a jagged guitar loop, while closing track ‘where’s my lighter’ layers ruminating piano with metronomic drums before rumbling bass kicks in.
While musically not as memorable or gripping as we’ve heard from Simz previously, the stripped-back nature does play to Simz’s strength as a very relatable MC, drawing greater attention instead to her rapid-fire rhymes, earworm hooks and thoughtful turns of phrase.
Upon releasing the series’ first EP, ‘AGE 101: DROP 1’ back in 2014, Simz described the project’s overall aim by saying: “The whole point of doing this mini-EP was basically… there is no point. Sometimes I like to be spontaneous.” ‘Drop 6’ follows the same ethos – clocking in at a concise 13 minutes, it may not reach the heights of ‘Grey Area’, but it’s still chock-full of intriguing sketches and honest dispatches delivered straight from artist-to-listener. As Simz herself aptly puts it on the EP’s first track: “This is for the now.”
Release date: May 6
Record label: AGE 101 Music