Few young rappers are as explicitly vulnerable as Little Simz. Born Simbi Ajikawo, Simz shines brightest when leaning into her deepest emotions, and on her previous EPs, mixtapes, and debut album A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons, she connected harder the deeper she dug. On "Gratitude," her single from her debut, she raps, "Put my feet in the studio and call it my home while others have got no way out," and the listener understands the severity of the stakes. Music is her escape and it is because of music that she is later able to dive deeper into her psyche and those of the people she uses as characters in her songs. "I ain’t never had a chance to do what I love," she says later in the song. "Ain’t nobody been encouraging me. I just stay indoors dreaming."
On her latest mixtape, AGE 101: DROP X, she peels back even more layers, discussing the scheming of her family and friends in an uncompromising world and the mounting pressures she experiences as her career continues upward. "Why don’t they like seeing women in charge? Shit I’ve seen left me mentally scarred" she raps on "Savage." Despite this, DROP X feels warmer and lighter than any of Little Simz’ other records, and more confident. The production is sharper than anything she’s previously done, aligning with a more progressive electronic sound that weaves in between the Afrofuturism of indie R&B and post-dubstep experimentations. She also has more collaborators here than ever before, from the honey-voiced Jesse Boykins III to the slow and viscous flow of Chicago’s Mick Jenkins.
"Interlude," which features Bibi Bourelly, is the strongest track, beginning with a warm guitar strum and a cold, steady coupling of drum machine and percolating synths. It sounds as fit for a singer as a rapper, and a large portion of the song is given to Bourelly. Like Dawn Richard’s "Adderall/Sold (Outerlude)," "Interlude" examine the pull of substances, the truth in things (pills, whiskey) that should only be temporarily enjoyable and not permanent solutions. Both songs are sad on the surface, but underneath is a level of hope: "Staying busy working on my shit/ How else can I be great?" Simz asks. More than most artists, Simz puts all her hope in her work; her work is her passion, the thing that helped her escape.
There is a lot of despair in Simz’s lyrics, pulling against that hope. She raps of the trials of the brutalized black body, stripped of its humanity before it has a chance to grow and thrive ("They ain’t even have the one-off chance to become the greatest," she raps on "Kiki’s Future") as well as her desire to keep going, regardless. She raps, "Still I’m hella angry at the system/ Young black woman, who the fuck is gonna listen to me now?" knowing full well the things stacked against her (her gender, her race) and still she keeps pushing. AGE 101: DROP X is her 10th release. By now, we should know she’s not kidding. Thank goodness for that.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://bit.ly/1QnBt3i