little simz is the woman who would be king
Little Simz is changing the rap game with her honest lyricism and self-released debut album.
"What the fuck is all this pressure? I can never sleep. Nowadays I'm awake making hella beats. Say my name, say my name, what? Little Simz." 21-year-old Simbi Ajikawo has had crowds dropping her name left, right and all over Europe this summer as she took her tunes on tour. And it's not only seas that her lyrics have traversed: her Blank Canvas mixtape was premiered on Jay-Z's culture website Life + Times; she topped the Billboard Emerging Artists chart; and Kendrick Lamar claimed she's "the illest doing it right now," in a 1xtra interview.
Simz is chillin' in LA in a pair of rolled up G-Star RAW jeans and a T. "I'm as casual as it gets," she tells us from her post-tour R&R session. How does she wear her jeans? "With confidence." Simz is a new breed of rapper, bringing it back to what's real, talking about actual events that are happening in her life rather than the finer things that come in a package deal with money and fame. Her lyrics are honest and that makes her relatable. Just don't put her in the "female rapper" box. "If you're good at what you do, you're good at what you do," she says. "It's the same as if you play tennis, if you play football, if you do boxing, whatever it is, if you're good at that, that should be it. It shouldn't be, 'you're good at tennis for a girl,' because someone's not going to be good at tennis 'for a man'". It's something that has bugged her since she started out in the industry, but Simz isn't taking it so personally anymore. "It used to annoy me, but I'm starting to realise that you can't have control over other people's opinions, because it's just an opinion, it doesn't mean that I'm that," she explains. "I just want to make people aware, because with being unaware comes ignorance. People don't like what they don't understand, so if I can make you understand it, then I feel like I've done my job."
That's a lot of what her debut album, A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons, is about. "It starts with a very big statement," she says, "which is women can be kings, and that's not to undermine the man or take anything away from the man, it's just a statement of equality. That's all I believe in when it comes to women in hip-hop." Due to drop later this month, released on her own label Age 101 Music (because, as she raps in Lane Switch, "Labels and boys are the same, they both just want to undress me"), A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons is a work of art, an album that has to be listened to in its entirety as it takes you on a journey through the stages of fame. "It's just me being very open and honest with myself," she says, "and knowing that my career is going in that direction. I'm not going to be able to do the shit that I used to be able to do. That's scary, you know. Fame isn't something you can just borrow. Once you're famous you're famous." Well, she'd better get used to it because it's inevitable.
Text Felicity Kinsella
Photography Sam Nixon
Styling Raphael Hirsch
Hair Jose Quijano at D + V Management using Toni & Guy
Make-up Dele Olo using M.A.C Pro
Photography assistance Pablo Marks
Styling assistance Sophia Drakou
All clothing G-Star Raw