On the eve of the release of her third studio album, GREY Area, Little Simz is resolved. As we sit down and chat a stone’s throw away from St. Paul’s Cathedral, the artist, real name Simbi Ajikawoshe, is in a fairly pensive mood—languid even. Today, she’s observing and living life at a much slower space compared to four years ago, when she released her debut album A Curious Tale Of Trials + Persons. GREY Area marks a new chapter in 25-year-old Simz’s life, where the music and the personal both come to a head. “When I first started writing for this album, I didn’t have a particular concept in mind,” she tells me. “It’s the first time I had spent a long time with a producer in the studio. On all my other projects, people would just send me beats, but this time I locked in with one producer, Inflo, and stayed stationary.”

Two years ago, the North London wordsmith began documenting her life and travels through photography, and it was a decision that led to her creating the artwork for the LP’s lead singles herself. “I wanted it to be as much my vision as possible,” she says. “When I was coming up with the ideas for each image, I realised that only I could capture what I had in mind. Photography is something I’ve been doing on the low, but this is the first time I’ve really started to showcase it.” While many artists and creatives are increasingly multi-skilled through DIY means, photography has given Little Simz another medium to tell her stories. Combine that with the two Welcome To Wonderland festivals she curated, and the artist has come to the realisation that through using a number of mediums, she is able to reach different audiences while telling a single story.

“I think it was just focusing on one thing at a time that changed the way I felt about my music. It’s like, I can’t be in four relationships at once.” But where she once previously tried to work on multiple projects at any given time, this time around she’s learnt that a single-minded approach can lead to a full-bodied album. “I’ve learnt how to focus my energy on one thing at a time,” Simz says. “Looking back on the Stillness In Wonderland album, I was writing it on tour and I was being pulled in so many different directions while trying to make a record at the same time.” Through rap, Simz tells vivid and personal stories, while grime’s soundscapes and energy allows her to be more threatening, piercing and often confrontational. As a lyricist, Simz is a square fitting into a circle and for a long time, how she was perceived as a rapper was something she thought about a lot; it’s certainly hard to occupy any amount of space as an emcee who is as technical as she is, hence why she wound up on the radar of Kendrick Lamar.

“Jay-Z on a bad day, Shakespeare on my worst days, never been a punk, trust you can get it in the worst way,” she spits with full conviction on “Offence”. But the bravado sounds more self-assured than on previous records. Simz is the rapper’s rapper, and because she continues to refuse to find herself confined to any one sound, her influence may not be truly felt for years to come.