This Little Simz article was written by Ben Duncan-Duggal, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Ian Bourne. Lead photo by inneedofbeer
Little Simz is in a place which could be described as “big”. She is the epitome of hyped right now. Kendrick Lamar and Andre 3000, among others, have sung her praises, and even Forbes magazine — that cutting-edge hip hop magazine — has got in on the act, naming Little Simz (a.k.a. Simbi Ajikawo) as one of their 30 people under 30 to watch in any field across Europe. It’s a list that includes other underground names, such as Adele, Novak Djokovic and Emma Watson. In other words, Little Simz is receiving attention from every possible quarter.
From her records, it’s easy to see why. The smooth production and clearly defined hooks that Little Simz uses — she claims to be primarily inspired by hip hop artists such as Notorious B.I.G., rather than today’s hottest trend of grime — are more suited to the massive US market. But although this leaves her in a strong position with regards to her future in the recorded music industry, it’s difficult to see how this appeal will translate to a 350-capacity room on a cold Bristol Tuesday night. It may seem as if Little Simz’ music is more suited to your headphones than a room.
But from the moment Little Simz launches into the first song, it is clear she is in complete control. She will control whether you have a good time or not. Her verbal control and, more importantly, her conviction are total. She skips from one bar to the next, she makes it look easy, and she knows that she is making it look easy.
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This level of conviction gives Little Simz the platform from which she can invite you right into her world. The control she exhibits means that when she says ‘I’m just getting to know you’, you believe her totally — you feel as if you are part of some sort of club. This intimacy is maintained by the sparkling complexity of Little Simz’ lyrics (and the musical sparseness that complements the weightier verses). The lyrics examine everything from gender politics to parental relationships and mark her out as so, so much more than a grime artist. She makes Stormzy and Skepta look as fickle as pop stars. That would be an unfair description of those two rappers, but it’s testament to her ability to draw you in that she makes you start to think that way.
That’s not to say it’s all dour-faced, deep themes. Excitement and energy run through this experience, often within the same song. It’s carefully controlled, unlike say Slaves or Stormzy, and this has the unusual effect of only adding to the focus and excitement within the room. It is such an achievement, to have total control over the audience, and the crowd realises it. Whenever Little Simz hits a beat-filled part of a song, its intensity feels like another side of the same coin.
Even when the energy on and off stage drops slightly, the fact that Little Simz maintains our focus through her pure skill speaks for itself, and we are rewarded for maintaining focus. That’s because, at the end of the set, Little Simz proves that she is a world class artist. She does that rare feat — she performs a song that is better than anything earlier in the set. And — this is important — she does it after a period of time in which she led the audience to believe that she had already taken them as high as they could go. An evening with Little Simz is exactly that. It is an experience, with a beginning, middle and end.