Being 21 is already a pretty crazy time, but for UK rapper Little Simz, it’s a little bit more intense. Not only has her record label celebrated it’s first first birthday in the past few months, she has also released one of the best albums of this year in the form of A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons. This album (read our review here) marks her latest release, following on from four mixtapes and five EPs already out. Like I said, intense.
A Curious Tale was released September 18 and sees the rapper not only step up to high expectations, but totally destroy any precedent she had already set for herself. Spanning a multitude of genres and styles, Simz effortlessly discusses issues that not only hit close to home for her but for her fans all over the world. Opening with a powerful monologue including the explosive line, “Women can be kings,” she doesn’t hold back one bit, and the album sounds all the better for it.
I had the absolute privilege to chat to Little Simz recently, who was chilling in bed. “Cool, calm and collected” doesn’t even begin to sum her up, but perhaps that’s what I love about her most. You can’t really sum her up; she is so many different things. But one thing is for certain, she is a superstar in the making, and with cosigns already from the likes of Kendrick Lamar and collaborations with Stormzy, it’s only a matter of time before everyone else realises too.
H&E: I have to be honest, I’ve been nervous about this all week, it’s so cool to speak to you!
Little Simz: Really? Why?
I just really love your album!
Oh, thank you, I’m glad! Don’t be nervous.
How has it been, post-release for you?
It’s been sick seeing people’s reactions and hearing their feedback. Not that that concerns me though, because I’m really not. It’s always nice when you do the hard yards and you hear praises about it. It’s makes you feel good.
Totally, it would be so rewarding. Whilst I’m a fan of your previous stuff, there is just something different about this album. It’s so honest and real. Was that a conscious decision to be so real this time around or did it just naturally happen?
It was just a natural progression but I am aware that I’m going on my journey. I just wanted to keep it as honest and as open and as true as possible. It’s just in my nature.
Was there a particular experience that inspired any of these songs?
Not necessarily. All lot of my songs are just based off life experience, and I’ve always been that person to write about what’s currently happening in my life – whether it’s good or bad. It’s for my own sake because it’s therapeutic for me, and it kind of helps me. Even though I know that I’m going to share this with the world, I just feel like I need to get it off my chest.
Even in the opening part in Persons where you say, “Women can be kings,” it was just like a lightning bolt for me. How does it feel to know that your music is having an effect on people like that?
I can’t even tell you how it good it feels. I didn’t expect the reaction from Persons to be as big as it is because not many people have thought of women in that way. It was like, yeah like that lightbulb going off like, “Oh yeah!” I’ve always thought from this perspective, it’s just been something that’s been on my mind so I thought, “Why not open my album with such a statement?” It says a lot. People might have thought I would open my album with Wings or something really airy, but I thought that was predictable and easy. Persons just felt like fire.
That’s exactly what I thought too, especially as it goes into Wings, and so many different styles and genres. Different messages and perspectives as well, was it kind of therapeutic to be talking about SO MUCH stuff in the one record?
Yeah, definitely. There is definitely a lot going on, but I like that. You go from Persons into Wings into The Lights, where I’m narrating a story about people that have been affected by fame and celebrity life; into Tainted which is about a character that has benefited from that; into Gratitude which is about the appreciation that not everyone gets to live out their dreams; into God Bless Mary which is appreciation for my neighbour for putting up with so much shit. It just all intertwines.
Then today, releasing the final chapter I suppose in the form of Dead Body Part 2+3 with Stormzy and Kano. It really sounds like you’re wrapping it all up but you’re still venting and getting more off your chest?
I have a lot. Because I recorded this album in February and we’re in September now, I’ve had a lot of time to think about things and I’ve been through a lot in that time. I have a LOT to talk about. Even though it seems like I just released an album, this was months ago that I wrote it. So in between the space of then and now, I have a lot to talk about.
Does it feel liberating in a way to have it finally out, considering you’ve had it done since February?
Yeah, definitely. This is my first album and I released it off my own label. I was in talks about doing an album this time last year, recorded it in February and now it’s out.
It’s been a long time coming then?
Speaking of your label, it just celebrated it’s first birthday! How does it feel one year on?
It feels sick. Just to say I’ve owned the label for a year now is crazy. I just want to continue to grow with it and make it the best that it can possibly be and bring the right people on board. People that I actually believe in. Talented and good people.
Do you draw motivation from your achievements? You’re 21 and you’ve done so much, is that what helps you keep going?
I’m always striving for better and striving for more. I’m always trying to be the best version of myself and that comes from just being it without even thinking about anything. And because I love it a lot. If I didn’t love what I was doing it would kind of feel like a chore, but because I’m passionate about what I do I think I improve without even noticing. By the time I do, I’m like 5 EPs deep. It just all happened so quick.
You’ve said in the past that your music is so precious. How does it go performing such precious and personal material when, the reason you started your label was because you didn’t feel any of the existing ones would treat it properly? Is performing to an audience cathartic or are you a little self-conscious?
I’m not self-conscious at all. I just do what I feel. I try not to overthink it because that’s when I think the problem occurs. I literally just go off the basis of how I feel. I don’t have a strategy or a plan, I feel like the best things happen unplanned sometimes. I just try to go off that… and it’s worked!
Exactly! I’ve been a fan of yours for at least a year now, so I’m curious – do you have any major personal triumphs?
I was anonymous to people and I struggled with people not giving me the time of day to listen to my story. It was a frustration for me. But I guess it just comes with it and you have to keep pushing until people are like “forced” to hear you. I guess that’s what happened with the record now. People feel they need to listen to it to hear what it’s about. Even if it’s just because they’ve heard reviews or they heard people talk about it, they’re listening now.
That’s so awesome. Where to from here, then? Have you been back in the studio?
Well, my studio is in my bedroom so I never get away from it. For now, I’m just going to let the album do it’s thing. I don’t want to oversaturate people with too much of me. I don’t know what I want to do next. I’m just playing it by ear. If I feel like I want to start recording my next album in December, or whenever, then I’ll do that. If I feel like I just want to chill and let the album do it’s thing, which is what I feel like now, then I’ll do that. Hopefully I’ll tour and come to Australia.
A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons is out now via AGE 101.