Oct 16, 2015 11:44AM

Interview: Little Simz Is London's Illest Rap King

Not a "female rapper".

If you haven't heard of Little Simz yet, be sure to add her name to your brain and her new album A Curious Tale Of Trials + Persons to your playlist. Hailing from London, Simz is a self-proclaimed "rap king" whose storytelling abilities and introspective intensity make it difficult to believe she's only 21.

After listening to her debut album on repeat, it became pretty clear to us why Kendrick Lamar thinks she "might be the illest doing it right now" and why everyone from SchoolboyQ to A$AP Rocky have co-signed the young artist. And it only took about two minutes of talking to her to realise she's already way more self-assured than most adults we know.

Madeleine Woon: Where did the name Little Simz come from?
Little Simz: Well, my real name is Simbi so Simz is just an abbreviation of that — it's what everyone used to call me in high school. "Little" was because I was very small [laughs]. Everyone had their growth spurts and I was the awkward one who was just really tiny. I actually outgrew everyone, which was kind of funny — but I decided to keep the name!

In your experience, what's the rap scene like in London for an emerging artist?
It's good! Our scene is at a good place right now — everyone's kind of putting out music for the people as opposed to just for themselves, just to get a hit or whatever. I feel like there's a different energy in which people are actually starting to care now. For an emerging artist, it's definitely in a good place, we just need to continue the good vibes, and continue to spread good energy!

How did you come to work with the Space Age collective?
Space Age is a group of friends for a start; We all have similar interests, and we all do music and stuff. We make music, but more than anything, it's just a foundation of support.

I think it's really common for people to make comparisons to other female artists when an emerging female artist blows up. Is this something you've found has happened to you?
Yeah, it definitely happens to me on a regular basis. But because I've been so vocal about the fact that I'm not a "female rapper", and that I don't like it when people call me that, I've started to see how people have reacted — they can respect that. And so I find that they just call me an artist, or a musician now, and that's what I prefer. That's what I am, and that's the truth.

You take on a few different personas on the album, how important do you think it is to do that to help tell stories?
It was important to do on this record because it allows the listener to see things from a different perspective, and have a new way of listening to music, and a new ear. Instead of it being very straightforward and very easy on the ear, I wanted to challenge the listener a bit, so people get the story and get where I'm coming from. Some people did, some people didn't.

Were you concerned at all that your lyrics would be taken literally?
Yeah, definitely! One hundred percent. I had a conversation with someone the other day and they were not really happy with the fact that I was selling souls and dead bodies [on the track 'Dead Body']. I had to explain to them that it's not from the eyes of Simbi, it's from the eyes of someone else, who literally has nothing and nothing left to give. And because they aren't acknowledged by the world, in their minds they're like, "Shit, I should just sell my soul and be over and done with." I had trouble explaining that to them. It's definitely something that bothers me when people don't understand. It's cool though, because it sparks conversation and that's what I like. It challenges them a bit.

What was it like filming the video clip for 'Dead Body' with Jeremy Cole?
It was sick! Jeremy is my favourite director to work with. His vision, how he works, how comfortable he makes me feel on set to be able to push me to my limits — he's such a sick person to work with. Honestly I haven't worked with many directors before, but Jeremy's definitely special and we work well as a team. He pushes it to another level.

What was it like touring with Schoolboy Q?
That was sick! It was the first tour I'd ever been on properly, and it was all sold out. It was so tight being amongst guys that I'd listened to, and opening up to them. It was fun, and I really enjoyed it!

Can you talk us through the message of 'Fallen'?
So 'Fallen' is like on the flip side to 'Wings'. 'Wings' is obviously about spreading your wings and talking about my personal life stages, and saying that you can fly and be so happy and positive, or whatever. 'Fallen', on the flip side, is more like, "Well, you can't fly forever, at some point it has to come to an end." That goes with anything in life — career, love, whatever it is — it's all these things that eventually have to come to an end. I just felt like it was an interesting end to the album that leaves it open for what's to come next…

So, speaking of what's next is Australia on the cards at all for a tour soon?
A hundred percent, next year!

Photo: @littlesimz

Madeleine Woon