By Kavan Singh
Whether the female rapper Simbiatu ‘Simbi’ Abisola Abiola Ajikawo, aka Little Simz, could be classed as an “indie” artist depends on the definition of the word. On one hand, Little Simz’s talent has been recognised time and time again by the industry – with Kendrick Lamar shouting her out on a BBC Radio 1 show citing that she may be “the illest doing it right now” and OVO putting her on the Top Boy soundtrack album (on top of her brilliant acting debut for the show). These accolades wouldn’t necessarily reflect most people’s definition of the ambiguous word, “indie.” However, if one was to take the literal definition of the word indie as an independent artist then Little Simz very much falls into this category. Currently signed to the label AWAL, recently acquired by Kobalt, which is essentially a label for independent artists which allows them to have complete control over the direction of their career and music.
In the summer of 2016 when I was 17, a group of my friends travelled to Benicassim Festival on what you could call a “boys holiday”- the conventional right of passage to a festival for many British teens. On one of the nights at the festival on the smallest stage, with an audience of what felt like less than a hundred, we fatefully stumbled across a Little Simz performance. 80 percent of the group (myself included) had never heard of her, but were immediately captivated by the insane energy and stage presence of Simz. She was perfectly articulating every single bar with very little to no backing, an often rare and refreshing sight these days- accenting and emphasising her versatile and adaptable flow conducting the crowd of hip hop fans. In little to no time I knew that she meant serious business.
Simz’s ear for unorthodox instrumentals, her desire to jump on mystical sounding samples and the ability to drastically switch up her flow to create contrasting vibes over a vast array of beats is what makes her music really stand out from the rest. Her latest album Grey Area, which thematically refers to that youthful early 20s period post becoming an adult but still lacking in life experience is highly relatable. The album is spearheaded by the incredible 101 FM track in which Simz nostalgically refers back to her childhood growing up in London, “playing PS2, Crash Bandicoot, Mortal Kombat” cleverly ad libbing about youthful and pubescent problems over a ridiculously catchy Asian influenced sample over crisp kicks. It also pays homage to Simbi’s 2014 EP to a track with a similar instrumental vibe, “Have I” on “Age 101:Drop 1”.
The ability that Simz possesses to be able to make an album with continuous storytelling prowess whilst including tracks that can be adaptable to every mood or situation, whether it be chilling or party, from “Selfish” to “Venom” is why she is one of the best “indie” female rappers out there at the moment. Whilst her numbers and cosigns are equally impressive, with over 5 million streams on multiple songs- features from the likes of Mahalia, Kano and Stomzy- for the quality of her projects, numbers and outreach should be even greater as she truly deserves to be a staple in the playlists of any hip hop fans. It is telling that arguably one of the greatest songwriters and sharpest ears for progressive production of our generation, Kendrick Lamar, would single out one artist across the pond over any other individual- male or female- is reflective of her potential for true greatness in this game.