We talk to the rapper about introspection, landing her flow, and the themes that run through her latest album, Grey Area.

Little Simz Wonderland Tam Cader

Image: Tam Cader

Little Simz Wonderland Tam Cader
Image: Tam Cader

It is impossible to have a conversation about the leading voices in UK rap right now without mentioning Little Simz in the same breath. The North London lyricist has been a pioneer in marrying a deft lyricism with a distinctly British sound, her flow respected and envied by many in the game. Following the release of her latest album, Grey Area, we chatted to Simz about how the project differs from her previous work, the potential fears and risks behind such candid introspection, and the way in which her flow keeps her listeners on their toes.

Your new album Grey Area is out now – can you tell us a bit more about why you choose the name, and also about some of the themes that run through the album?
I choose the name Grey Area because, at the time I was making it, it felt like that was the space I was in. I couldn’t put a finger on what these feelings were; it just felt like nothing was making sense, nothing was black and white, it was a big area kind of shaded grey. Basically, it discusses a lot of personal things, and things that have been challenging over the last 12 or so months.

I love how many different sounds exist on the project. There’s an acoustic instrumental, a digital/gamey vibe, “101FM” obviously has that Asian inspired instrumental…I was wondering how important it for you to go beyond a set sound or genre with the album, and to try and be versatile?
Super important. I think it sums me up as a person as well in terms of my musicality, and how diverse I always want to continue to be. Working with Inflo really helped that, because he’s just as diverse and versatile, and can dip into so many different vibes – we just had great chemistry between us. We’ve got a really strong musical relationship. It’s almost like a language we just get each other in that sense. I think Flo has a really great way of drawing the best out of an artist and getting the best out of that person and I think he defiantly helped push me to come out of my shell and tap into things that were not the easiest to talk about but I think were need in order to grow and continue to grow.

On that note, your previous projects have explored quite conceptual landscapes, but this one’s very autobiographical. I was wondering what made you change and go in that direction? Was it just time?
Yeah, I think it’s just a natural progression and natural growth. It’s not something that I thought about too deeply – I just got into the studio and started making music, and it just so happened that what I was making was a lot more direct and a lot more focused. It made a lot more sense to me at the time. I didn’t plan for it to go for that but, you know. sometimes life doesn’t go like that.

Yeah – did you feel a bit more that, when you got into the studio, you just went for it rather than planning it out like your last one?
100%. I was stationary in London when making this album, and I got a chance to really hone in on my thoughts and feelings, understand my own emotions, go in and just create vibes man, just eliminate all the pressure of feeling like “Ah I’m making a record”. Let’s just make music. We know what the goal is but let’s not put pressure on ourselves like that.

Now, you’ve talked about finding your early twenties quite a confusing and difficult time – what would you say now to other young women, or young people in general, going through that confusion?
Be in the confusion then. Understand that you’re going through something and be aware of it, but also know that it’s fine. Nothing’s straightforward. You’ll figure it out, just give yourself time. If it’s confusing you and you need to be confused, then that’s what you need to be going through right now in life.

That’s amazing. Do you find it cathartic or therapeutic writing about this stuff or making music about it?
Yeah for sure. It’s a way for me to heal, to deal with things, to channel those energies, and I’m blessed that I have an outlet like music to do that. Some people, when they’re going through shit, turn to substance abuse etc., so I’m very lucky that I have a positive outlet.

Your flow is incredible, it’s one of my favourites, because you do that thing which Biggie was famous for where you rap over the end of one line and into the next, but in a really unique way. Is flow something you think about, or does it just come naturally to you?
Honestly, it’s always came really naturally; I’ve always thought of myself as an instrument, my flow, especially, being quite percussive, like drums. I guess I try and put myself in places in the song… I find pockets and ways to deliver things that’s not just bait, you know what I mean? I want to make it interesting. You think, “is she gonna land it?” And then I do land it

Little Simz Wonderland Jack Bridgland

Image: Jack Bridgland

Little Simz Wonderland Jack Bridgland
Image: Jack Bridgland

Yeah, it’s a way of keeping people on their toes. I also really liked “Flowers”, because you managed a slightly slower, more drawling flow on that. Is versatility of flow quite important to you? Do you try and mix it up quite a lot?
For sure – versatility is super important. Not everyone is going to catch every single word I say, unless you go and read the lyrics or whatever, but it’s important to keep a balance with some slower songs where people can digest it a bit more easily, but then also really go for it and keep them on their toes. The production as well has allowed me to be free flowing through out it.

[Laughs] Exactly. It’s helped that I’ve worked with someone like him. He’ll take it somewhere I don’t know where it’s going to go, and find ways to adapt to it, or he’ll alter things in what I’m doing. It’s cool.

“Flowers” was also the only song on the album where you stepped out of yourself, looking at Amy Winehouse and Jimmy Hendrix, and it sounds like you think about legacy a lot in that song. What do you want your legacy to be?
Bear in mind this can all change depending on where life takes me and what I’m doing when I’m older. But, right now, all said and done, to be remembered as someone that tried to help in some way. Someone that shared their story and was open and honest, with the hope that people can connect to it, and to allow people to know that they’re not alone with what they’re going through. That’s not to say I want to make music that’s super sad and depressing all the time, but that I’m trying to figure it out just like you. Everyone is human, do not forget that! Life is more important, no one’s life is less important, we’re all one.