Music / Photography

“Musicians are the new politicians”: Little Simz on the power of sound

The London star opens up about just how great an impact music can have.

At just 25, Little Simz has made such a name for herself. Born to Nigerian parents in Islington, she’s dropped 3 albums, four mixtapes and 7 EPs since 2010, collaborated with the likes of Gorillaz and Mahalia, been co-signed by none other than Kendrick Lamar, as well as having a rather impressive filmography to boot. And she’s not slowing down any time soon.

Dropping ‘Flowers’ with Michael Kiwanuka and recently starring in Netflix’s long-awaited Drake-produced reboot of Top Boy, Little Simz’ name is always synonymous with what’s hot and what’s relevant. Nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize, the young rapper is no longer the underappreciated rising talent, she’s a globally recognised performer, with a presence every inch worthy. Grateful for her humble beginnings of performing in a youth club, Simz is the voice we need to listen to, and it sure is a pleasure to hear.

We headed to the HUNGER studio to meet and shot the vibrant musician, and talked about everything from London to Lauryn Hill…

Do you remember the moment you fell in love with music? 

I remember falling in love with the Lauryn Hill album – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The first time I listened to it I remember thinking I didn’t know music could… Make you cry or give you goosebumps or like inflict that kind of emotion physically onto you. That was probably one of my earliest memories of listening to music and falling in love with it.

Did you have a creative upbringing? 

Growing up I was around a lot of music. I grew up in the kind of household where you just couldn’t escape it. Whether that was mum playing Afrobeats and reggae, my sisters playing garage and grime, my brother playing rap and hip-hop, whatever it was I was always just surrounded by music within my household. Stepping out of that I went to a youth club in my area in north London, called St. Mary’s, which was a place I would go to after school and have my time to be creative, to dance, to write songs, to act. Whatever it was I was always surrounded by creativity and creative people.

What are the five albums that have shaped you the most over your life?

The albums that have shaped me the most over the years would definitely be The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,  Erykah Badu’s Baduism and Mamas Gun; those two back to back. Probably Biggie Smalls Ready To Die. Yeah, I’ll go with those for now.

 

How has London inspired your music?

London has inspired my music in so many different ways. Obviously, this is where I’m from, I was born and raised here. I think growing up in London. I definitely wouldn’t change it for anything. It’s the best place to grow up, if that’s not a biased opinion. Even though I’m from London I feel I’ve taken from different places also – like there’s so many different influences in my music from other parts of the world but its still very British. You can listen to me and you can tell I’m a Londoner and I just think that’s due to it being so multicultural and so diverse, it’s like a big melting pot.

How does it feel to be creating in the current climate? 

Creating in the sociopolitical climate right now is an interesting one. I feel like its almost like musicians are the new politicians. No, really. Nobody’s really listening to politicians but you’re going to go on YouTube and listen to your favourite artist. You know what I mean?

Do you think music has the power to cause social change? 

Music is so powerful, and so for me, it’s always important that I’m conscious and aware of the messages I put out in my music and what I say. I just always make an effort to be aware because I understand that I have a platform and a lot of people listen to me, so I think it’s just about being aware.

 

If people could take away one message from your music what would you want that to be?

If people could take away one message from my music I’d want it to be, without being cliché like, just be yourself. Like, it’s fine. It’s ok to be vulnerable – I don’t think that makes you weak I think it makes you stronger. And also anyone who does listen to me and relate, you’re not alone in whatever you’re going through and neither am I.

How do you feel you’ve evolved so far as a musician? 

I’ve been doing music since I was nine, I’m twenty-five now so it’s been a little while and over the years I’ve obviously grown. I’ve matured, I’ve come into my own skin, I’m a woman now. My sound has changed, my content matter has changed, I think I’ve gotten better as a lyricist and a writer. I also have a better understanding of music and I think I’m a lot more open to trying new things. I think before as open as I thought I was, I was still so stuck in a particular way of doing something. Now as I’m getting older I’m learning to be more open, and more open, because it’s only going to help me grow and it’s only going to help me get better at what I do.

 

What’s next for you?

Tour. I made an album that I’m super proud of and what is the most exciting thing about that is taking it and putting it on a stage in front of people and just having that moment to play the songs live. I think there’s no better feeling. Yeah, tour, more music of course. I’d say that’s it for now.

25 September 2019