Clare Considine discovers the rising Islington rapper’s powerful attitude and independent spirit as Little Simz prepares to release her debut album…
Ten minutes with Little Simz is like a speed life-coaching session without the clichés. The Islington MC’s been rapping for the last 10 years. If you’d have told an 11-year-old Simbi Ajikawo that in 2015 she’d be releasing a debut album off the back of some major hype from everyone from Kendrick to Snoop Dogg she’d have probably believed every word of it – “I just used to visualise,” she explains.
When we chat Little Simz is in Boots getting the snacks and Carmex in for a long flight to LA (“can’t have dry lips, man”). She’s heading out there to do some album promo, but also to “see a beach”. She hasn’t had a holiday in a very long time and she’s going to need one before her debut album ‘A Curious Tale Of Trials + Persons’ drops in the UK. It’s a Lauryn Hill-inspired concept project that sees her apply her crisp, breakneck flow to modern hip-hop beats and a variety of characters who all deliver her message from different perspectives.
And what exactly is that message? “That women can be kings,” she states, no hesitation. She wants to team that sentiment with a reminder to her peers that nobody can stop them. “People don’t expect a black woman to be confident,” she says. “I want young people to think bigger. If you think things, they’ll manifest eventually.”
But, in a genre where pimps’n’hoes are the bread and butter, she’s had to fight hard to get her message heard. Early mixtape hype and that famous Jay Z endorsement saw record labels tripping over themselves to snap Simz up. “Something just clicked in me, like – ‘Rah, these people actually don’t get it like I thought they would’,” she explains. “From that point on I was like – ‘I’m done man. If you’re trying to change me, it’s just not gonna run’”. So, she turned down offers from either side of the Atlantic and opted for free Red Bull studio time and a self-released debut.
This week’s album drop marks the end of some serious hustle. Simz is part of a new generation of artists who’ve chosen autonomy over security (“If I’m a frustrated artist, I will be a pain to work with. I don’t think no label wants that problem”) and she’s ready for whatever comes her way – “I’m a Londoner, innit.”