Faced with the dual handicaps of gender bias and a foreign accent, Little Simz has fought an uphill battle for stateside recognition. Without much to rely on in the way of big name cosigns, the 21-year-old UK upstart has been forced to think on her feet in order to stand out. Using the web’s wealth of promotional resources (such as SoundCloud and Bandcamp) and taking on the SXSW stage this past spring, she has steadily teased her potential to release a breakout debut. The culmination of a steadfast work ethic has resulted in four mixtapes and five EPs since 2010, Little Simz presents A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons: a first chapter for newcomers and the latest for devotees already immersed in her grace.
Where most newer Hip Hop artists play it safe until they build enough of an audience, Little Simz pushes the envelope giving her all to a scene that may not know what to make of her. Taking the initiative to claim herself a leader, she makes a powerful statement for womanhood in a genre often closed to anything short of objectification. Boldly redefining a term largely reserved for male pride, on the opener “Persons” she defies convention stripping the term king of its masculinity. Though Simz leans heavily on introspection and intensely personal messages, songs like “Wings” have been crafted to reach anyone who can relate. Here she fights her own insecurities, aiming to see greater heights while keeping her peace of mind intact, all the while hoping to touch the hearts and minds of listeners.
Designed as a concept album of sorts, with A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons Little Simz explores rising stardom from a number of layers and facets. For example, “The Lights” has her evolving worldview juxtaposed against men and women lost in the fast life, an idea brought full circle on the trap based “Tainted.” Written from the perspective of an emcee less inclined to caring about artistic credibility she mockingly prods, “Fuck the world, I’m rich, remind me who you are? / I don’t do this for the music, fuck your keys and guitars.” Taking a complete 180 back to an autobiographical tale on the creative grind, “God Bless Mary” is the album’s arguable highlight. Serving as an apology to the neighbor who put up with Simz’ rigorous bedroom recordings, anyone pursuing a dream will understand the passion that went into her 10,000 hours practicing towards perfection. Additionally, the subtle nod to A Tribe Called Quest’s “Push It Along” is sure to endear her to an old school generation that often worries about being forgotten.
Continuing to build her movement brick by brick, A Curious Tale Of Trials + Persons finds the artist Little Simz flexing her superego while exposing the all too human frailties of Simbi Ajikawo. Proof positive she’s unafraid to stretch her musical limitations, “Full Or Empty” fuses her lyrical gifts with rock. This open letter questions an ex- flame’s intentions, fitting well with the album’s theme of exploring life’s mysteries. Unable to be shaped by outside influences, Little Simz is at once an anomaly and a breath of fresh air in a largely stagnant day and age. With any hope, her present moment will materialize into greater domestic respect as she continues growing within the public’s increasingly watchful eye.