My housemate and I recently came across an article titled ‘Eight rappers you need to hear in 2017.' The list was comprised of all females, a feat that got us excited - hip hop is a genre in which females are overwhelmingly underrepresented - yet unfortunately we were confronted with 1 good artist and 7 who should have frankly been left off.
An artist who should have been included is Little Simz, whose late 2016 release Stillness in Wonderland proved her thoroughly deserving. She can’t brag about having ‘no features’ like J Cole but the features she does have significantly contribute to the well-crafted record.
The album starts with LMPD (Let My People Down), an acknowledgement of the plights that black people have been struggling with in the U.S. Chronixx blesses the tune with vocals and lyrics that compliment Simz’s well. While he sings ‘I’m not half the man Marley was, still I hear the voice of Garvey calling us’, Simz replies ‘I’m not half the woman Maya was, still I hear the voice of Nina here guiding us’. Lyrics like these provide an insight into her influences and idols.
Doorways is a nod to Alice in Wonderland, which is also referenced in the title of the album. She refers to success and the music industry metaphorically as a ‘wonderland’ which when entered is full of surprises, some manifesting themselves as insecure thoughts and paranoia. This notion leads nicely into Trust Issues, which bears a hook that is lent from Drake’s original version of the song. In terms of potential radio airplay, the standout song on the album is One in Rotation which features rising R&B star SiR.
While branching out to collaborate with artists from the U.S., Simz reps the UK well by having Grime veterans Chip and Ghetts on King of Hearts; Chip buries the riddim with wordplay that begs for a reload – ‘You want a verse? Sorry, no reception, But you know I got Simz like a mobile’. Further features on the album are Syd, from The Internet, Bibi Bourelly and long-term collaborators Tilla, Arca and Chuck 20.
Simz herself comes correct on every song but especially Bad To The Bone and Low Tides. These two songs stand out as they show the two sides to the Simz coin. While one side is 'bad to the bone', determined, ignorant to negativity and gully with the flow, the other side is vulnerable, taken aback by the success she has encountered and wary of changing into someone she doesn’t want to be.
One issue with the album is the prevalence of the word n***a which is arguably unnecessary (a debate for another essay) and comes off as contrived given the UK's relationship to the term is different to those in the U.S.
Overall Little Simz’s sophomore album was an excellent close to 2016 - a year in which we experienced the death of many stars but also many great projects such as Blonde and Cranes in the Sky – and she is definitely a rapper to look out for in 2017.
Words: Lehin Adenekan