I love me an album that not only kicks down the door, but burns the whole house to the ground and dances on the ashes. Thankfully, 21 year old UK rapper Little Simz has delivered just that, and more, with her debut. Titled A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons, if there was any question of just who Little Simz is or what she’s about, it’s safe to say they are well and truly answered now.
“They took her wings and told her flying was impossible / They told her women could not call themselves kings / They told her fame is not made for everyone / Trials and persons will be explained / Women can be kings”
This is the opening spoken word piece delivered by a no-bullshit Simz, before launching into the heavy bass track Persons. “Everybody should know that I’m king now,” she declares, her metaphorical middle finger raised high in the air. There’s straight to the point, and then there’s this. Her flow rests easy over the erratic sea of beats, all glitchy and futuristic. She speaks to herself, as if reciting what someone had once said to her before saying, “You have to do more than rapping, Simmy / What else can you show me?” Reliving and repeating the criticism and doubt she’s received in her life, putting it on the record, then turning around and showing what she’s made of, from just the first track the feeling that a real star is being born here is too strong to fight.
Simz isn’t taking no for an answer and is certainly not taking it lying down. From the formidable opening track, she catches you for a six with the beautiful piano melody and vocal harmonies of Wings. She opens up a little bit, taking it down more than a few notches. She touches on her religious side, rapping about being thankful, as well as opening up how “nobody handed me a dream, I had to chase it.” Following this is The Lights, and yet another side of Little Simz. Showing off her knack for a catchy hook as well as her singing chops, the militarised drums and spitfire rhymes once again show her versatility as an artist, as well as peeling back another layer to the front she put up in Persons.
Marrying a multitude of genres with her rapidly changing rhymes and flow, Little Simz proves not only to listeners but to herself that she is capable of more than anyone really realised. Quickly changing from RnB to grime, incorporating elements of industrial, rock and even dramatic classical music, Simz and her razor sharp tongue know no bounds when it comes to limitations of genres or styles. In fact, her ability to seamlessly and effortlessly flow with the production is enough to create a style of her own. From the swaggering Tainted to the grimy as fuck Dead Body, the gentle aforementioned Wings to the instrumental second last track This Is Not An Outro, Simz flexes her wealth of talent like it just isn’t a thing.
My favourite thing about this album is the progression from opener Person to closer Fallen. The brash, badass fighter we heard in the first few minutes of this album – by the time it reaches it’s end – is worn down and vulnerable. With each track, she becomes a little more human, a little more relatable. Full of bravado and youthful optimism, it’s as if the issues she discusses in the interim wear her down not just in life but on this record too. From destroying the patriarchy in one track, as well as the sexualistion and plight of women in the music industry (Persons) to discussing exchanging her humanity for greatness (Dead Body), it’s all in a day’s work for Little Simz, but this would take it’s toll on anyone. Clearly having a wealth of real life experience beyond her years, she’s carrying the burden for women everywhere, and although she’s not letting go any time soon, it’s almost as if A Curious Tale should act as a call to arms: we all need to help Little Simz make this change.
Hellbent on proving everyone wrong, Simz pours her body and soul into every single song on this album. She’s worked incredibly hard and you can hear it, but she’s also pulled it off in a tremendous fashion. Being a feminist is hard at the best of times, let alone in the music industry – and especially in hip hop. However, this 21 year old is the ray of hope we need and want, and she isn’t going anywhere but up from here. Masterful in her delivery; considered in her rhymes and lyrics; progressive in her production and arrangements; A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons is about as good as it gets when it comes to debut albums. Little Simz is here to stay, destroying preconceived notions on just about everything you “shouldn’t talk about”, especially on a debut. Gender norms, ego, external pressures and male supremacy all get their fair share of destruction, and something tells me she isn’t stopping here. All hail King Simz.