Why we should all listen to Little Simz
By Eliza Duckworth
Simbi Ajikawo, aka ‘Little Simz’ was propelled into the mainstream last year following the huge success of her third album Grey Area, for which she received the NME award for Best British Album and a nomination for the Mercury Music Prize. Little Simz is not a new face for many fans of UK rap and at the young age of just 26 she has already achieved more than most artists would hope for in a lifetime. Simz has set up her own record label, Age: 101 Music, starred in the popular Netflix series ‘Top Boy’, supported Gorillaz on their 2017 Humanz tour, and has an impressive discography that spans 3 albums, 4 mixtapes and 8 EPs.
The first thing any new listener notices about Little Simz is her energy. Outspoken and brilliantly honest, every one of Simz’ lyrics echoes the ferocity she performs with and her self-confidence underscores every song. Her 2017 single ‘Good for What’ hits listeners in the face with the bold statements ‘been a bad girl since year 6’ and ‘I got a bullet of honesty aiming it right at your jaw’, you can’t help but love her for it. At the very least, you can’t help but be intrigued.
Such unapologetic, confident sentiments characterised Little Simz’ early work, but really shone through on Grey Area. Tracks such as ‘Boss’ and ‘Selfish’ tell of Simz’ experience of being a self-assured women, something she admits isn’t always appreciated in the music industry. Speaking to Hot97 FM in 2017, Little Simz stated that ‘‘I was always kinda told that I can’t [succeed] because of the fact that I’m a woman, and a black woman at that – like you wanna break the States – what?’’. Simz clearly translated this frustration at being told ‘no’ because of her sex and race on Grey Area. ‘Offence’ was another of the hit singles to come from the album, and became somewhat of a feminist anthem, being used in a ‘This Girl Can’ TV advert last year.
But Simz isn’t someone who has always been confident with the label ‘Feminist’. In 2017, she told Channel 4 News she had previously avoided calling herself a feminist because she didn’t want to appear to be ‘extreme’. However, in the same interview she clarified that she is a full supporter of feminism and wants to be a ‘real model’ for young people; girls especially. Simz uses the term 'real model' as a way of humanising herself as someone who admits ‘I’m going to mess up’ and has used the term in many interviews.
Her realness is echoed in the stoic activism of her music too. Little Simz does not shy away from discussing the experience of growing up black in Britain. ‘101 FM’, another track from Grey Area, pays homage to her youth and Simz speaks candidly about watching her friends being arrested by the police: ‘tore everyone apart but the law don’t give two s***. Just another black boy in the system doing time in the bin.’ Simz recently posted a video of a live performance of ‘Pressure’ on her Instagram in response to the murder of George Floyd by US police. The post received overwhelming support, which shows how critical music and art are in highlighting and combating racism in the world today.
Little Simz can definitely be characterised by the terms ‘artist’ and ‘activist’. A quick search on YouTube leads to a vast collection of her music videos, all of which are beautifully shot and conceptual – more like watching a short film than a music video. Her collaborations with musicians, playfulness with instruments and beats, and her dynamic staging at live shows all go to show that Little Simz is an artist first and foremost. In a time where we are all (hopefully) becoming more aware of the need to support black artists and voices, there really is no one better to turn to for pure talent and meaningful words than Little Simz.