Helping yourself requires admitting that you have the propensity to be your own assailant. When you seek help for mental health issues, you have to admit that on some level you are part of your own problem. You have to face your demons and recognize that you have likely been enabling your own bad habits, up until the point you get help, of course. There is no other way to be part of the solution than through the path of conflict and growth. It is thorny and ugly, and not very becoming to admit to yourself that you’ve done wrong, especially when you are your own victim, and Little Simz seems to know this well on her new LP GREY Area.
The crux of GREY Area, her most focused and spirited project to date, falls on “Therapy” and “Sherbet Sunrise,” a two-piece that showcases Simz as embroiled in struggle, but wholly scared to help herself. On “Therapy,” Simz bemoans therapy as something that simply does not work for her. Fiery verses are outfitted with droning background vocal chants (“I don’t need saving”) that have us questioning whether or not Simz is being honest with us and with herself. So opposed to therapy, even triggered by it on the track, we can’t help but wonder where Simz’ disdain is coming from. That is, until the end of the track where she admits: “You will never know what you need, until you need it,” as if to say that this entire time she has needed therapy but has been going about it all wrong.
Suddenly, we realize that Simz does not hate therapy, she has a fear of it. She has a fear of helping herself because to help yourself is to face yourself. When she decries therapy because she is still in pain (“Still my feelings hurt”), it is not because therapy is a sham, but rather that Simz is classically avoiding looking her pain in the eye, all to the point of letting go. Our final grip is always the tightest, and that can be terrifying for most. It is far easier to blame the external than it is to look inwards, which is why Simz takes her frustration with her emotions and consequently with herself out on her therapist and the institution as a whole. The sight is familiar and paints an important picture of someone struggling for help, but unable to fully help themselves.
In that breath, for too long I was terrified of medication, which sounds antithetical to my character, but bear with me. I was scared that medicine would steal my creativity and sense of self, when in truth it was pursuing medicine that allowed me to feel like myself for the first time in years. After nearly half my life in therapy, it would be easy to assume that I had no qualms about medication. Even so, I had to hit rock bottom to fully appreciate how sick I was. While I’ve never felt better, I had to first dwell in that bottom and be a victim of my own hand before I could be saved. I had to admit I wanted to take my life in order to turn around and give myself a life worth living.
Thankfully, we don’t need to use conjecture to know that Simz is right there with us; right there with me. On the second verse of the following track, “Sherbet Sunrise,” Simz finally speaks to her avoidance technique, rapping: “Allow me to be human and be in my feels / Chill, I'm good, I got it / I never lost it / Or am I just lying to myself to skip the topic?” With that final line, all of “Therapy” begins to make sense. As so often happens, Simz lied to herself and self-sabotaged because it was easier than going through the knotty process of getting help. She wants us to allow her to be human, but at the same time, she is not allowing herself to be human.
In this instance, to be human is to appreciate the gross parts of ourselves. It is more than just sitting in our feelings. To be human, here, is to look at those feelings and label them as toxic as they make us feel. To be human is to say, “This hurts me,” and from there, expunge the feeling. We do not have to carry our sadness, though we often do without realizing. This is what keeps Little Simz from successfully helping herself, and why she must lie to herself in order to move on. Skipping the topic, as she raps, implies that staying on-topic is a battle she is not yet ready for. Likely, because it requires her to look at herself critically, and no one is ever prepared to face the ugliest parts of themselves. As Mac Miller once said: “We only grow from anguish.”
The story of “Therapy” is crucial in that for the listener, we hear something off in Simz’ delivery. We do not necessarily believe her, as we are living on the other side of stigma. What “Therapy” does is showcase the rest of the narrative surrounding mental health. That is, not every attempt at helping yourself will go to plan. Yet, Simz does not simply quit exploring herself, which is why we get the confession on “Sherbet Sunrise,” and the narrative comes full circle. There is plenty of trial and error when it comes to mental health, and Simz is in the throes of error, which does not make her any less deserving. Here, she covers the unspoken and gives life to error. She encourages us to keep trying because there are more revelations to come.
While Little Simz may assert that she does not need saving, we can gather that she certainly does. The two songs are an emotional swerve—she tells us one thing but feels another, and we land somewhere wholly different than what the track implies. “Therapy” relies on “Sherbet Sunrise” to make sense, and GREY Area relies on both songs to give us a clear image of Little Simz’ mental state. Everything works in conjunction to give us the story of a woman who is trapped in herself, and if we can find ourselves in Simz’ words, that means we too can come to the realization that we are lying to ourselves. From there, we can get closer to the truth of our healing.