Let’s get a few facts straight about UK-based lyricist Simbi Ajikawo: She’s known as Little Simz (not Lil’ Simz – put some respeck on her name). She continues to drop fire records as an unsigned artist, and she’s already proven herself as a prolific rapper in the ever-changing world of hip-hop at the ripe age of 24. Both of Simz’ past albums – A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons and Stillness in Wonderland – feature her remarkable ability to speak candid truth sans frills, coupled with rawness without a filter. Dispensing rhymes faster than a snap of PEZ, there’s a certain level of openness in her lyrics that reveals an artist who is truly human without pretentiousness.
In addition to paving the way for well-versed rappers out of the UK, touring and collaborating with Gorillaz plus receiving a recent shout out from the legendary Yasiin Bey, she can now add festival curator to her rolodex of accolades. “Welcome To Wonderland: The Experience – Part II” is a one-day event that took place over the weekend at Roundhouse London. Simz hand-picked each artist of the predominantly female roster.
Highsnobiety Music hopped on a call with the Londoner to discuss the meaning of success, the inner workings of her debut festival and what it means to be vulnerable as an artist.
What are you hoping people took away from the festival this weekend?
I wanted “Welcome to Wonderland” to be a safe space for people from all walks of life to feel that they have one thing in common: Good music, good vibes [and] art in general.
I noticed – and love – that the line-up is primarily female. Was this intentional or did it just happen that way?
I guess it was partly intentional – not that we were going to have that many, but I think they’re all women I believe stand and represent for something strong and important. It’s cool that I’m able to bridge the gap in what’s happening between the States and the UK; and I’ve hand-picked a few that I’m fans of myself and that I’d want to see play live just as a fan.
I’ve followed your career since you were 19 when you dropped the ‘Blank Canvas’ mixtape. I don’t know if you remember telling me this, but you said that “the experiences we have are like the paint and strokes that help to mold us and become the creation of our painting.” So, what’s aided in your personal painting across these past five years?
That’s a good question. Damn, I guess that’s what my third album talks about. I think just learning how to actually be a person in this world and feeling like I have to ‘have’ myself all the time. At the time I was making Blank Canvas, I was obviously a lot younger… I spent a lot of time with my friends at that point. For the past five years – or at least the past three – I’ve spent a lot of time alone. So I’ve really gotten to know myself a bit more in ways that I didn’t before. A lot of that I talk about in the next record.
You brought it up, so when is the next record coming out?
I’d like to think in my head, it will be summer. Definitely summer, but things are always subject to change depending on what is going on. The album’s done. It’s just a timing thing.
I had a chance to listen to your interview with DJ Target. There was a part in the interview when you mentioned that you’re not against labels, but you haven’t been presented with the right opportunity. So, what’s helped you to not cave into joining a record label?
I never lost sight of the bigger picture in terms of what I’m even capable of as an artist. To me, it’s never been about selling a million records – it’s never been about that. It’s always been beyond me. Of course I want to create a legacy and I want to do all of these great things; but I also want to carve my own image and start my own things for those that come after me, just like the ones who came before me. My dreams have always been bigger than that and a bit more ambitious. I’m well on my way to achieve what I believe.
You touched on the topic of legacy – what does success mean for you? Is there an end goal to it?
It always changes as I get older. I think I’m successful, but then there’s a success that I’ve yet touch. 15 years ago, success to me was getting my own place, moving out, touring the world, and releasing a record, and I’ve been blessed enough to accomplish those things. Now success is, I don’t know. It changes to me the more I achieve what my initial goal is. It just keeps changing.
It’s like an ever-evolving process, right?
What song on your latest album, ‘Stillness In Wonderland,’ hits an especially personal spot for you?
I’d say… “LMPD”. That’s off the record featuring Chronixx. That definitely hits a real place for me, especially in the world today. It’s one of the realest songs I feel like I’ve ever written. That was a deep one.
There’s a vulnerability to the lyrics that you’ve written. For some artists, that can be a bit scary. What’s helped you to overcome the fear that’s typically associated with being vulnerable?
To be honest, I feel like I haven’t been vulnerable enough. I’ve tapped into areas in which not everyone can even tap into as an artist, but it’s a scary thing to be that vulnerable and put your business out on records for the whole word to listen to and then be questioned about. More so, I’m not one who talks a lot or expresses themselves often. For me, it’s almost like therapy. I think the more I’ve grown, I’ve removed the fear factor a bit more.
What’s been a key highlight of your career thus far?
One of the key highlights is being able to release my albums independently. Many would have said it’s not possible. That feels like a really big achievement at the age of 24. I’m proud of myself for that.
For more of our features, read our interview and editorial with the elusive dvsn right here.
- Words: Gabrielle N. Pharms
- Images: Blair Brown