“Being a bit of a lone wolf means that I often like to be by myself when I’m creating,” says Little Simz (born Simbiatu Ajikawo) in Islington, North London. Her insular nature – a quality she often ruminates on in her deeply introspective body of work – cuts through the hedonism-tinged mystique of contemporary rap. Simz doesn’t pop bottles or buy the entire Versace store like some of her peers, instead, she asks her listeners to take a journey back to a familiar place: the real world.
Oddly, reality is a place that rap music (a genre often celebrated for its unflinching realness) has moved away from.
Being normal is no longer a standard part of the narrative, and it’s becoming more rare to find artists who are lyrically dexterous enough to pull from something as inglorious as everyday life and communicate its preciousness to a generation that intuitively values excess. “I can find inspiration anywhere because when I’m writing it comes from a real and personal place,” explained Simz. “I like to talk about what I’ve experienced and whatever crazy thoughts might cross my mind that is easier to express musically.”
Having grown up listening to the soulful crooning of Lauryn Hill and Bob Marley and the (at times) uncomfortably revelatory lyrics of Notorious B.I.G., it makes sense that Simz values the truth above all, even when it is painful. Her single “Backseat,” a half-paranoid confessional, half defiant anthem of arrival, encompasses just how the Stillness in Wonderland rapper’s uncompromising honesty defines her career. “All my life been a black sheep / All my life been the black keys,” raps Simz over a whimsically melancholic beat. Even the song’s title seems to be an allusion to her awareness that she has shifted from the proverbial backseat to a permanent place in the spotlight. It’s a position Simz at once enjoys and rejects, as most of us would.
However, it is precisely her solitary nature and that rare ability to enrich her own existence that underscores Simz the artist, and the person. Like her lyrics, there is a sense of self-possession, a quiet, unfussy confidence that doesn’t seek approval. When she creates she doesn’t force ideas; when she speaks she doesn’t force her opinion; she doesn’t even force her style. Usually you can find her sans makeup in a pair of Nike Cortez (her favorite sneaker) and a tech fleece. “I’ve always kind of kept my style really cool, really calm, and collected,” explained Simz. “Growing up in North London we never really had money like that so we kind of just made the best with what we had”. Yet for Simz, it was never a restraint but rather motivation to eventually settle on a uniform that felt timeless and comfortable. For the most part, the rapper approaches life in the same manner.
“It’s just a matter of giving things time and allowing everything to be organic,” said Simz of her philosophy. “Giving things time and space to breathe always works for me and I come back feeling 10 times more inspired.” In true Simz form, it’s a seemingly simple solution that (in reality) takes an incredible amount of introspection and discipline to accomplish.
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Fashion Editor: Odessa Legemah
Hair & Makeup: Helena Kapidzic
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