It doesn’t seem that long since Grey Area dropped, does it? The best hip-hop album of 2019 was on our lips all year over at Picky Bastards, and I think it has had more mentions on the Picky Bastards Podcast than any other single album. There are good reasons for that. It is an absolute mesmerising piece of work that has catapulted Little Simz into consideration among the very best rappers at work on the planet right now. We don’t often review EPs, but with so much excitement about this artist since we launched – we kind of had to, didn’t we? But what did we think of the thing?
Well opener ‘might bang, might not’ definitely bangs. Hard. More aggressive than anything on Grey Area, this is an outright club track, with sirens sounding in the background and Simz encouraging you to ‘feel the bassline’ throughout the chorus. If this song wasn’t so good, it might make me upset that I can’t actually go anywhere to feel a bassline at the minute. With the fervour and flow she showed on ‘Venom’ this tracks kicks things off with a real punch to the guts and sets out the stall for what is to come on the following four songs.
‘one life, might live’ comes next. And while it might calm things down a tiny bit, it is another example of Little Simz making a statement. She has one life and she might just live it. Here, like a slap in the face of lockdown, we hear Simz set out a manifesto for her existence, telling us what she will and won’t do as she moves forward, challenging anyone to tell her different. It exudes confidence. And it suggests that this is someone flying high after the best year of their career, ready to take on the world and put themselves first.
You could probably make an argument for each of these five tracks to be the EP’s highlight, but for me it has to be ‘you should call mum.’ While ‘one life, might live’ seems to suggest someone on the cusp of pushing themselves forward, clasping the mantel, ‘you should call mum’ seems the most authentic reaction to lockdown life so far. Simz raps about ‘trying to maintain her sanity’, ‘living day- by-day/sleepless night-by-night’, and how ‘life forced me to calm down’. She asks how many ‘naps can I take’ and ‘how many songs can I write’ in a 2020 with ‘no hindsight.’ She addresses the pause that Covid-19 has forced us all to take and acknowledges the many different possible reactions to it, all while looking at how the restless persona that her music personifies is struggling with that. All over an entrancing looped beat that pulls you in and out of the song. This is a special piece of music.
‘where’s my lighter’ and ‘damn right’ are equally as impressive as the other three, but both take a gentler tack. At this time, I am personally feeling the aggression that Simz puts into the three tracks I’ve discussed in detail. It’s amazing to see.
While openly admitting that I still need to dig back into her back catalogue, I have to say that Grey Area forced Simz firmly to the top of the list of artists I’m looking out for news of at the minute.
Drop 6 was a welcome bit of excitement in these days of solitude. But even I don’t think I expected something as life-affirming as this to land – it may only be twelve minutes of music, but if you listen to it on repeat like I’ve been doing you can fill as many lockdown hours as you feel the need to. Get it in your ears.
Words by Fran Slater.