Why 24-Year-Old Rapper Little Simz Is Killing The Game Right Now

  • Why 24-Year-Old Rapper Little Simz Is Killing The Game Right Now
    POSTED Nov 29 2018
    Little Simz
    Photo by Jack Bridgland

    Rapper, curator, game-changer – Little Simz means business. Exuding an air of effortless cool, she knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to work hard to get it.

    At the start of this year, on top of working on a new album and locking down some enormous collaborations, she held the second instalment of her festival, Welcome To Wonderland: The Experience, in London. It was a success by all accounts, including her own. “I pretty much just wanted Welcome To Wonderland to be a safe space for all creatives. I did it in conjunction with the Roundhouse [London venue] as part of their Roundhouse Rising festival which they do yearly. What’s cool about that especially is when I was maybe around 16 or 17 I would dance around the Roundhouse,  just a student or whatever. To just years later come and put on a festival in the main space is crazy.”

    Welcome To Wonderland: The Experience is a multi-sensory, multimedia venture, and this time around included an art exhibition, food, talks, and of course, music. “It was wicked – we had a lot of really sick talent come through, there were a lot of great performers on the lineup. So we had the gallery, obviously the two stages, we had the marketplace, just a bunch of stuff. That whole day was manic,” Simz recalls. “I remember running around – even though it’s my festival, there’s so many different moving parts and ‘cause I’m actually playing on the day, it’s hard to be in two mind states at once if that makes sense. So I remember on the day walking around the whole festival like ‘Oh shit! This is pretty insane.’”

    Will other places around the world ever see Welcome To Wonderland? Simz hopes so. “I’d love to bring it to Sydney. Been thinking about that, I guess it’s just timing but it’s something that I see me doing way more in the future. The festival is only two years in, so it has so much room to grow and expand.”

    Speaking to Simz, it is impossible to deny that she is ambitious - and with good reason. It’s one thing to have great ideas, and a whole other ballgame putting them into play. Simz does both with a charming ease. Being someone who does have so much drive, there have been times in her life she’s felt restless in her hometown. “Sometimes when I travel and then I go home, it kind of feels like the ceiling has come down. Because I’ve been exposed to so much. And sometimes, as much as I love London, it has this thing where it kind of makes you feel like you have to apologise for being great, or dreaming big. I’m not that kind of person; I’m very ambitious and a dreamer by default. So at those times I remember wanting more, basically. But yeah, I don’t know, we’ll see – we’ll see where life takes me.”
     
    Stillness In Wonderland was an intimate album in many ways, touching on some of Simz’ fears and vulnerabilities – but upon its release, she felt it wasn’t vulnerable enough, and worked towards opening up more on her forthcoming record. “I think with this album I’ve tapped into places that I’ve been scared to before. It’s touchy, isn’t it - as much as I’m very open and honest in my music I’m still putting my business out there to the world, do you know what I’m saying? And that’s not an easy thing to do. And it involves other people in my life that may not want their business out there. So it’s always a tricky one, you just have to be careful with things like that. But I was fortunate enough to work with producers that allow me to tap into those spaces and not feel like I’m being judged on it. I just remember going into the studio with the mindset of, ‘nah, don’t really want to talk about that because it’s like a wound that I haven’t let heal.’ But the studio’s like a bathroom isn’t it, it’s like a personal space and going into this new album I’ve just kind of had that mentality. That it’s okay to make mistakes, I’ve said people's names in the album, I’ve called people out… It’ll be interesting to see what they, [or] if they reappear. We’ll see.”

    On Stillness In Wonderland, trust – or a lack thereof – was a strong recurring theme. Has Simz’ relationship to trust changed over time? “No. It’s getting better, but it’s still not 100% there. But then I don’t know if it ever will be, do you know what I mean? I don’t know, to be fair. It’s all just learning, isn’t it,” she shakes her head. Fame comes into that too, and several Little Simz tracks feature throwaway lines about fame and what that may mean – from listening to her discography, it’s clear that it’s something that plays on her mind regularly. “I just kind of take it for what it is. It’s different – some people may look at me and think ‘famous,’ some people may look at me and think ‘human’ – I don’t perceive myself to be a famous person. Especially the way I live my life, I’m very ‘normal’, I’m not out here trying to be a celeb, at all. I think I’ve been around a lot of ‘famous’ people and I’ve seen sides of that and in terms of the industry I guess I just know when to dip in and out. It’s very easy to get lost in it. Very easy.”

    Little Simz
    Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

    As a self-professed introvert, knowing when to dip in and out is important to Little Simz. “It just means knowing my place. I’m a very to-myself person, I know how to be social, I know how to interact with people but at the same time I let less people in. So I feel like people sense that or get that from me, and so they just learn to keep it at a distance. Not to say that I’m rude, it’s not that – I’m just private,” she shrugs. It’s a mode of self care. To Simz, self-care means “spending time with people that I care and love. That’s the most important thing, ‘cause when all this shit goes away those people are there. So exercising that as much as possible and just letting those people know that I’m here. Because as well, I travel so much, I miss things in people’s lives that I actually care about. And they have their own take on that too. So I just try to be as present in those people’s lives as much as possible. That’s practising self-care to me.”

    That, and cooking. “Yeah, I love cooking. I love a curry. I do a mean curry for sure. Just anything healthy – feelgood food. Lots of different colours on the plate, I love seeing colours in food. Things that are made with love. And as well, cooking is a form of art, innit. You’re creating. So I like that – it’s therapeutic for me.”

    While she’s still mulling over things that were pivotal while she was writing and working on Stillness In Wonderland, Simz’ new forthcoming record will not be a concept album in the same way. “Stillness In Wonderland follows the theme of Alice In Wonderland, whereas this album is me coming out of that world back into reality, and I’m just in the thick of it all. I’m feeling like, no-one told me my 20s was going to be this hard, no-one prepped me for this shit, and now I’m right in the middle of it and I’m just looking around like ‘what even is going on?’ So it comes from a state of confusion, and I guess finding myself.”

    Making this album has been quite a different process in general to Simz’ past way of working. “With my past releases… Stillness In Wonderland for example I wrote whilst I was touring, so I wasn’t stationary in one place to make the whole record. Whereas with this album, I was in London the whole time - well, I’d done some sessions in LA and then I came back to London to finish the record. And so, I think that I was just able to completely hone in as opposed to moving around a lot, which just made for a bit more of a concise project. [There’s] a lot of live instrumentation which I didn’t really have on Stillness. And I had different producers do ideas and things like that, but I pretty much created the record with one producer.”

    And we’ll hopefully see it live soon after its release, because Simz is keen to come back and play in Australia. A live music highlight of 2017 for me was seeing Little Simz perform at Melbourne’s Sugar Mountain Festival. She whipped out an electric guitar and did some songs, playing and rapping, and it was so empowering seeing a young woman of colour do something I’d never seen anyone do onstage. When I mention it, the unbelievably talented Simz is predictably humble yet confident, and self-assured. “With that, it’s a different part of my artistry that I wanted to share with people, and it’s just part of my evolution. I just always want to do what I can to become a better artist, and if that means learning a different instrument then so be it, if that means learning producing cool, writing more, not just for me but for other people, then cool. Whatever it kind of takes to become that, I just want to at least explore it, not to say that I’m going to be the best guitarist but I just think pushing the boundaries of it and challenging myself. I’ve been on the bass a little, it’s cool. I’m loving the bass right now. Might get on the kit.”

    Her self-assuredness rings through her words about the record that she would like to leave you with: “If you’ve ever been into my music and followed my journey then this is another part of it. Just another part of me, and it’s an evolved Simbi. That’s all it is. So if you’re interested in knowing what that is, then yeah, cool. If not, then cool. It’s fine.”

    134706

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Little Simz
Photo by Jack Bridgland

Rapper, curator, game-changer – Little Simz means business. Exuding an air of effortless cool, she knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to work hard to get it.

At the start of this year, on top of working on a new album and locking down some enormous collaborations, she held the second instalment of her festival, Welcome To Wonderland: The Experience, in London. It was a success by all accounts, including her own. “I pretty much just wanted Welcome To Wonderland to be a safe space for all creatives. I did it in conjunction with the Roundhouse [London venue] as part of their Roundhouse Rising festival which they do yearly. What’s cool about that especially is when I was maybe around 16 or 17 I would dance around the Roundhouse,  just a student or whatever. To just years later come and put on a festival in the main space is crazy.”

Welcome To Wonderland: The Experience is a multi-sensory, multimedia venture, and this time around included an art exhibition, food, talks, and of course, music. “It was wicked – we had a lot of really sick talent come through, there were a lot of great performers on the lineup. So we had the gallery, obviously the two stages, we had the marketplace, just a bunch of stuff. That whole day was manic,” Simz recalls. “I remember running around – even though it’s my festival, there’s so many different moving parts and ‘cause I’m actually playing on the day, it’s hard to be in two mind states at once if that makes sense. So I remember on the day walking around the whole festival like ‘Oh shit! This is pretty insane.’”

Will other places around the world ever see Welcome To Wonderland? Simz hopes so. “I’d love to bring it to Sydney. Been thinking about that, I guess it’s just timing but it’s something that I see me doing way more in the future. The festival is only two years in, so it has so much room to grow and expand.”

Speaking to Simz, it is impossible to deny that she is ambitious - and with good reason. It’s one thing to have great ideas, and a whole other ballgame putting them into play. Simz does both with a charming ease. Being someone who does have so much drive, there have been times in her life she’s felt restless in her hometown. “Sometimes when I travel and then I go home, it kind of feels like the ceiling has come down. Because I’ve been exposed to so much. And sometimes, as much as I love London, it has this thing where it kind of makes you feel like you have to apologise for being great, or dreaming big. I’m not that kind of person; I’m very ambitious and a dreamer by default. So at those times I remember wanting more, basically. But yeah, I don’t know, we’ll see – we’ll see where life takes me.”
 
Stillness In Wonderland was an intimate album in many ways, touching on some of Simz’ fears and vulnerabilities – but upon its release, she felt it wasn’t vulnerable enough, and worked towards opening up more on her forthcoming record. “I think with this album I’ve tapped into places that I’ve been scared to before. It’s touchy, isn’t it - as much as I’m very open and honest in my music I’m still putting my business out there to the world, do you know what I’m saying? And that’s not an easy thing to do. And it involves other people in my life that may not want their business out there. So it’s always a tricky one, you just have to be careful with things like that. But I was fortunate enough to work with producers that allow me to tap into those spaces and not feel like I’m being judged on it. I just remember going into the studio with the mindset of, ‘nah, don’t really want to talk about that because it’s like a wound that I haven’t let heal.’ But the studio’s like a bathroom isn’t it, it’s like a personal space and going into this new album I’ve just kind of had that mentality. That it’s okay to make mistakes, I’ve said people's names in the album, I’ve called people out… It’ll be interesting to see what they, [or] if they reappear. We’ll see.”

On Stillness In Wonderland, trust – or a lack thereof – was a strong recurring theme. Has Simz’ relationship to trust changed over time? “No. It’s getting better, but it’s still not 100% there. But then I don’t know if it ever will be, do you know what I mean? I don’t know, to be fair. It’s all just learning, isn’t it,” she shakes her head. Fame comes into that too, and several Little Simz tracks feature throwaway lines about fame and what that may mean – from listening to her discography, it’s clear that it’s something that plays on her mind regularly. “I just kind of take it for what it is. It’s different – some people may look at me and think ‘famous,’ some people may look at me and think ‘human’ – I don’t perceive myself to be a famous person. Especially the way I live my life, I’m very ‘normal’, I’m not out here trying to be a celeb, at all. I think I’ve been around a lot of ‘famous’ people and I’ve seen sides of that and in terms of the industry I guess I just know when to dip in and out. It’s very easy to get lost in it. Very easy.”

Little Simz
Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

As a self-professed introvert, knowing when to dip in and out is important to Little Simz. “It just means knowing my place. I’m a very to-myself person, I know how to be social, I know how to interact with people but at the same time I let less people in. So I feel like people sense that or get that from me, and so they just learn to keep it at a distance. Not to say that I’m rude, it’s not that – I’m just private,” she shrugs. It’s a mode of self care. To Simz, self-care means “spending time with people that I care and love. That’s the most important thing, ‘cause when all this shit goes away those people are there. So exercising that as much as possible and just letting those people know that I’m here. Because as well, I travel so much, I miss things in people’s lives that I actually care about. And they have their own take on that too. So I just try to be as present in those people’s lives as much as possible. That’s practising self-care to me.”

That, and cooking. “Yeah, I love cooking. I love a curry. I do a mean curry for sure. Just anything healthy – feelgood food. Lots of different colours on the plate, I love seeing colours in food. Things that are made with love. And as well, cooking is a form of art, innit. You’re creating. So I like that – it’s therapeutic for me.”

While she’s still mulling over things that were pivotal while she was writing and working on Stillness In Wonderland, Simz’ new forthcoming record will not be a concept album in the same way. “Stillness In Wonderland follows the theme of Alice In Wonderland, whereas this album is me coming out of that world back into reality, and I’m just in the thick of it all. I’m feeling like, no-one told me my 20s was going to be this hard, no-one prepped me for this shit, and now I’m right in the middle of it and I’m just looking around like ‘what even is going on?’ So it comes from a state of confusion, and I guess finding myself.”

Making this album has been quite a different process in general to Simz’ past way of working. “With my past releases… Stillness In Wonderland for example I wrote whilst I was touring, so I wasn’t stationary in one place to make the whole record. Whereas with this album, I was in London the whole time - well, I’d done some sessions in LA and then I came back to London to finish the record. And so, I think that I was just able to completely hone in as opposed to moving around a lot, which just made for a bit more of a concise project. [There’s] a lot of live instrumentation which I didn’t really have on Stillness. And I had different producers do ideas and things like that, but I pretty much created the record with one producer.”

And we’ll hopefully see it live soon after its release, because Simz is keen to come back and play in Australia. A live music highlight of 2017 for me was seeing Little Simz perform at Melbourne’s Sugar Mountain Festival. She whipped out an electric guitar and did some songs, playing and rapping, and it was so empowering seeing a young woman of colour do something I’d never seen anyone do onstage. When I mention it, the unbelievably talented Simz is predictably humble yet confident, and self-assured. “With that, it’s a different part of my artistry that I wanted to share with people, and it’s just part of my evolution. I just always want to do what I can to become a better artist, and if that means learning a different instrument then so be it, if that means learning producing cool, writing more, not just for me but for other people, then cool. Whatever it kind of takes to become that, I just want to at least explore it, not to say that I’m going to be the best guitarist but I just think pushing the boundaries of it and challenging myself. I’ve been on the bass a little, it’s cool. I’m loving the bass right now. Might get on the kit.”

Her self-assuredness rings through her words about the record that she would like to leave you with: “If you’ve ever been into my music and followed my journey then this is another part of it. Just another part of me, and it’s an evolved Simbi. That’s all it is. So if you’re interested in knowing what that is, then yeah, cool. If not, then cool. It’s fine.”

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