Naija women, got the melanin dripping
L-O-N-D-O-N, city girl living
In the back, looking like fire, chili pepper
Yoruba girl tougher than imperial leatherWoman
The Necessary Evil Nigerian element expands. Don’t worry though, I’m not just going to talk about my ex-wife again. Seriously though, entry #20, there’s some real good stuff gonna happen there, promise. Don’t forget to like, share and subscribe. Hit that ‘subscribe’ button as hard as you can. All of that, yeah?
Let’s talk about Little fucking Simz though, yeah? This woman is more than a talent, she’s more than merely a star, she’s an absolute presence. It’s what allows her to so easily combine and feature such disparate and unique styles and genres – as she does to her most audacious level yet on ‘Sometimes…’ – and still have them gel together so seamlessly. Track three could be a Barry White-esque excessively orchestrated soul song, track four a relentless trap/grime hybrid, track five a progressive oompah band concept piece, track six an ABBAesque medley, and track seven could be a Simpsonwave thrash metaller produced by Ryan Adams. It wouldn’t matter, they’d all be connected by that voice, that charisma, that God damn presence.
There’s an odd inverse connection to make between Simz and the last entrant, MARINA. While MARINA (bollocks, I decided a bit ago to always respect how she stylises her name as all capitalised, but I’m really regretting it by this point) actually sells a sffêrload of records in both Europe and the US, and plays to packed stadiums whenever she tours, she just never quite feels like a mainstream artist. Nobody’s heard of her, and she seems like the only secret underground artist in history with four top ten albums (including one number one). Simbiatu Ajikawon/Little Simz, however, seems like a big deal. She shits Ivor Novellos, she’s critically beloved, Mercury nominated, her incredibly photogenic face is plastered over broadsheets who all ache for her interviews and compose thinkpieces around her very existence. Yet the astonishing ‘Grey Area’ which all us Serious Music Critics ™ agreed was an impossible to ignore breakthrough, actually dribbled its way to number 87 in the UK charts. Is there a conversation to be had about the UK being strangely averse to homegrown female rappers…?
Yes. There absolutely is. But it might have to put on hold for a while, as ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’ (S.I.M.B.I, or ‘Simbi’, how Simbiatu Ajikawo is known to her friends) may well have been her commercial breakthrough, charting at number 4. This may well have been to its design, as ‘SIMBI’ is a big record, laden with bells, whistles, sinks and sideboards. Critics may have lauded ‘Grey Area’ as monumental, but perhaps its lackadaisical commercial performance convinced Simz to turn all the volumes up to eleven and make her follow up literally impossible to ignore. And it is a colossal achievement, building incredibly on her ‘breakthrough’ album like a big budget follow up movie to a word of mouth independent hit. Simz’s lyrical concerns are as introspective as the title suggests – with pointed discussions on her family, her identity, and her absent father (respectfully illustrated with Vince McMahon and Hornswaggle, above) – but the sound is as EXTRAvert* as humanly possible, creating a distinct mix of introspection and bombast.
(*sigh, yeah, I know that’s not how you spell it, I wanted to make the ‘extra’ pun as obvious as possible. Yes I know it would work better said out loud – you think I don’t know that?? – but I did a bit on it during my fifteen minute set at The Comedy Store last week and it was fucking crickets, mate, so to be perfectly honest I don’t know what to do with it. It’s a great line though, yeah? Tell me it’s a great line…)
It does mean that I kind of miss the subtlety of ‘Grey Area’ though. I miss the claustrophobic feel of a infinitely large and echoing dark space while Simz righteously spits perfectly enunciated truths centimetres away from your face. I miss the danger of feeling like Simz would harshly punish any moment she felt like you weren’t paying complete attention. Now, she’s almost lost within an orchestra, ad I feel like I could pop out for a cigarette and a five minute bash of Clash of Clans and she wouldn’t notice. Simz’s stature will always win out, I just wish that she hadn’t invited so many elements to take a shot.