Album review: Little Simz – GREY Area

Little Simz - GREY Area album cover

25-year old Simbiatu “Simbi” Abisola Abiola Ajikawo, a.k.a. Little Simz, is now on her third album and displaying an incredible amount of maturity for her tender age.

GREY Area is a powerful and provocative work that lays bare both her fragility and her steely determination. There is musical sophistication here to match her well-conceived lyrical lashings, which combine to deliver a quite impressive opus.

Simbi sets her stall out on opener Offence, which features some classic funk breakbeat, buzzy bass and jazz-style flutes as she essentially warns us that she doesn’t care who she offends. If you’re bothered by what she’s got to say – that’s on you.

There are other powerful messages contained in this album. Wounds, with its bluesy guitar and impatient keyboard and drum line, hits out at women who get embroiled in and end up supporting and glorifying gun culture.

Venom, possibly top track on the album, uses ominous strings and oppressive keyboards to call out sexism in the music industry and highlights how forthright women can be cast aside for being too intimidating.

There are a fair few self-reflecting pieces on here. Therapy finds Little Simz recounting how counselling sessions hadn’t worked for her, but did find redemption in the power of perseverance and self-belief.

Sherbert Sunset, another track driven by a fantastic funky bass line, is a classic break-up track, but manages to combine the relief of having dodged a bullet with regret at it having ended and counting up the damage done from both the relationship and the split.

We get some traditional Japanese melodies via keyboard accompanied by some cracking heavy bass on 101 FM. The track offers us the well worn gem that the most important lessons in life don’t come at school, but does manage to reference Crash Bandicoot and Mortal Kombat in the process. Priceless.

It’s not a perfect album, some tracks don’t develop as much as you may want, but there are enough highlights to keep your attention throughout, and to go back for a repeat listen.

Release date: 01 March 2019

Rating: 7.5/10

Standout track: Venom

For fans of:

  • Missy Elliott
  • Loyle Carner
  • Miss Red

Listen on Spotify

Album review: Rat Boy – Internationally Unknown

Rat Boy - Internationally Unknown album cover

Chelmsford born Jordan Cardy, A.K.A. Rat Boy, has pulled off quite a trick with Internationally Unknown, merging pop, punk, rap, reggae, dance, dub and ska into a feast of infectious tunes.

Chip on My Shoulder launches us into the album headfirst and screaming, a raucous punk effort that will have you bouncing around. There are a fair few all-out pop-punk episodes peppered across the album including I Wanna Skate, Dad’s Crashed Car and So What, which are tremendously enjoyable tributes to Green Day et al. But it’s when Rat Boy pulls in other elements that the album gets really interesting.

My Name Is Rat Boy takes a trip around Reggae, Ska and Dub while Rat Boy raps almost as energetically as he plays trashy guitars. Night Creature, is a slower Reggae track that throws in a bit of Dubstep to boot.

There are influence flying in from all over the place, from The Clash and The Sex Pistols, to Fatboy Slim, The Specials, De La Soul, Sisters of Mercy and Rage Against The Machine. Despite all that, Rat Boy manages to pull them all together into coherent and hugely enjoyable pop numbers.

Internationally Unknown is undoubtedly a pop album at its heart, drawing on the tried and tested ‘Ode to disaffected youth’ formula. However, I get the feeling that it’s a pop album that arrived a couple of decades too late.

It’s most certainly worth half an hour of your time, but with so many throwback influences it may struggle to land with a younger audience. Perhaps Rat Boy is a boy out of time.

Release date: 25 January 2019

Rating: 7.5/10

Standout track: My Name Is Rat Boy

For fans of:

  • Green Day
  • The Specials
  • Fatboy Slim

Listen on Spotify