One of the first lines on Little Simz’ manifesto/story/debut album “A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons” is the defiant opening statement: “Women can be kings.” What follows is irrefutable proof of this assertion.
Simbi Ajikawo, better known by her stage name Little Simz, is a new rapper straight out of the U.K. Of course, she’s not exactly “new.” Although “A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons” is technically her debut full-length LP, Little Simz has built a name for herself for years now through the release of four mixtapes and five EPs.
Though she’s gained considerable notoriety from these releases, “A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons” is her mission statement, a concise hip hop tour de force that serves to convince any doubters of her status. Armed with flow and lyricism rivaling the likes of Lauryn Hill and Kendrick Lamar, Little Simz has entered the hip hop fray with a sharp debut packed tight with storytelling, boasting and politics in equal measure. The very nature of Simz’ persona expresses this duality. Assertions like “Women can be kings” point to the fact that, unlike many other rappers, Little Simz’s ostensible boasting is, by its nature, political.
Little Simz’ writing serves as a critique of modern society. “Still applying the same pressure, I ain’t eased up / All they talk about is money and bitches to feel up / What happened to the content? What you saying?” she spits over a beat that’s been “made by Osiris.” Her indictment of modern culture is followed by a distorted guitar solo.
Like many great artists, Little Simz isn’t pinned down by one genre, delving into jazz, soul, rock, etc. while retaining her status as hip hop’s newest emcee. The fusion of seemingly disparate genres makes for a compelling listen, as does Little Simz’s seamless interweaving of loud and soft, fast and slow, as she spits fire and breathes ice one after the other.
In contrast to the intensity of songs like “Persons,” Little Simz closes the album with a short, subdued track called “Fallen,” in which she says “all good things gotta come to an end sometimes.” With the album clocking out after a brief 34 minutes, this line rings too true, and Little Simz knows it. That’s the reason her debut may not immediately seem as sprawling or ambitious in scope as “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” or “To Pimp a Butterfly.” Little Simz has given us her densely-packed manifesto, a brief, powerful introduction — but it’s only the beginning.
You can contact Tyler Dunston at tdunston ‘at’ stanford.edu.