Since busting onto the UK rap circuit with 2010’s STRATOSPHERE mixtape, Little Simz has received a lot of love.

The north London rapper, singer and actor has dominated the scene with her quick-witted rhymes, breakneck flow and beats that go in hard, yet manage to stay distinctively soulful. Now, Simz is flexing her best chops on recently-released third studio album GREY Area, a body of work that crystallises her ability to balance high-octane pounders with quiet, introspective moments. She spoke to us about the songs that helped her climb all the way to the top.

A song that makes me feel empowered

Lost Ones by Lauryn Hill [Rough House, 1998]. Lauryn Hill is a black woman just fully rapping her heart out. It really just shows that your voice is enough. She taught me that a good artist could drop gems with minimum instrumentation and be clear and bold.

An album that made me who I am

Ready to Die by Notorious B.I.G. [Bad Boy, 1994]. The first time I heard that album I started to understand storytelling and painting a picture through your words. That album really inspired me to commit to making the listener feel like they’re having a visual experience.

A song that helped shape my political identity

Terrorist Threats by Ab Soul, Jhene Aiko and Danny Brown [Top Dawg Entertainment, 2012]. It’s so club-ready yet so political and clever. I love when rappers write songs like this because there’s such a stereotype towards rap music about guns, girls, money, drugs. This shows the public that we’re conscious people, talking about real stuff happening in the world.

An album that unlocks my vulnerability

Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun [Motown/Puppy Love, 2000]. Erykah Badu is really open and warm and honest. She just says things like, ‘remember when I felt the day I first got my period?’ Who even says shit like that? It’s so relatable as a woman, especially a black woman. She’s great at going to those lengths. She’s a Pisces as well, and so am I, so we obviously have a connection.

A song that makes me feel proud

Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense by Fela Kuti [Barclay, 1986]. Fela’s one of the greatest musicians that ever lived. He’s Nigerian and I’m Nigerian. I remember when I first heard this song feeling really proud of being from a place that has so many talented people.

A track that reminds me of where I grew up

JME’s Serious [Boy Better Know Records, 2008]. I grew up listening to grime. JME’s from north London, I’m from north London. This takes me back to a time in my life where me and my friends were just completely gassed up over that song. Simpler times.

GREY Area is out now via Age 101