everybody has dreams but everybody ain’t simz
We chat to London hip-hop's shining light about impatience, her debut album and inspiring a generation.
North London rapper Simbi Ajikawo aka Little Simz is evidently comfortable on stage - smiling, laughing and often flanked by her Space Age collective as she awakens something special within her audience. Still unsigned (who needs a label these days?), at just 21 she's already released several hugely successful mixtapes on her own imprint, AGE 101 Music, and is currently playing a series of US dates while recording her debut album. Very determined and incredibly talented, there's a contagious air of calm to King Simbi and we honestly can't get enough of her, her impressive hat collection, and her wicked fucking sound. She's so cool.
It wasn't a conscious decision, like 'I want to be a rapper'. It just picked me. I've always been a performing arts kid, whether it was dance, acting or music.
What would you say are the three biggest influences on you as an artist?
My family, the fact that I have good health and have the power to live my dream, and music itself. I can't imagine life without music.
How has your life has changed since we first spoke to you a year ago?
Quite drastically. I'm a lot busier now - I have a lot more eyes and ears on me. It's not pressure, but I know that people are aware of me. Now I feel like it's really time to deliver. Know what I'm saying? I gotta really go for it.
And what about your music?
I don't know if it's changed… more like evolved. I've still kept it 'me' and been true to myself and the stories I tell but I'm being a lot more open and expressive. If there're things happening in my life, I'll talk about it in my music. I'm not really a feelings type of person in real life, so music is my only outlet.
Which of your tracks do you think sums you up?
One song? I don't know, I feel like each song that I put out is just a piece of me. I don't feel like I've ever put everything into just one song.
You had a live band at a recent London show. How did that compare to your usual PA setup?
It was crazy. It definitely wanna start doing more shows like that - it adds a different element and brings the show to life. I want my shows to be an experience. I want it to be memorable.
You've been working with producers in LA, New York and all over. Where in the world do you find the most inspirational creatively?
Definitely London because that's where I'm from, so inspiration will always be in the air for me. Meeting new people helps too. My mom's a foster carer so we always have kids come into the house and I'm intrigued to learn their stories. Especially when they come into my home, it inspires me to another level. The times I've been in LA though I've been inspired on a crazy level due to the fact that I'm out of my comfort zone. It just opens your mind basically.
You're still at university. How're you managing that on top of everything else?
I'm studying Music Technology so there's a lot of theory. I didn't want to study performance because I figured I do that anyway and it's one of those things you just have to pick it up. When it comes to the practical side though, learning how to work in the studio and engineer things definitely comes in handy. It allows me to rely on no one but myself, so I can record and mix in my bedroom.
Good call. Do you feel like things are going to plan for you?
I'd say it's been quite prosperous so far! I feel like everything has happened at the right time. When I was younger I always wanted to do things right away - I was very impatient. Now I'm 21 and it's the perfect time because I understand everything a lot more. I feel like what's to come is better than what's happened.
And what is due to come with the album? Who're you teaming up with?
I've been working with Jakwob, a producer called OTG who's on my label, a rapper from the States called Mick Jenkins, MNEK, lots of US collabs and of course my Space Age team. I'm aiming to get it out in the summer. My debut album has been a long time coming and I have a lot of shit to say. People need to hear it.
What makes you different?
I feel like I'm actually saying shit and talking about real things that I know everyone can relate to because they're human. It's not out of anyone's reach - I don't talk about anything that I don't know or haven't experienced because that's not me. I don't feel like there's enough of that. People are talking about what they don't have and just feeding so much shit to kids. I wanna be some sort of inspiration.
Text Francesca Dunn
Photography Matteo Montanari