Little Simz recording at Red Bull Studios
© Steve Stills/Red Bull Content Pool

Meet Little Simz, UK rapper taking on the world

The rising London MC talks acting, hanging with Kendrick Lamar and the darkness in her music.
Written by Manu Ekanayake
5 min readPublished on
What Little Simz (real name Simbi Ajikawo) may lack in stature, she more than makes up for in talent.
A North London MC with Nigerian roots, Simz is rising up the game on her own terms. She’s been on her mixtape grind since she was 16, releasing at least one a year – and it's paying off, with Gorillaz enlisting her as a guest vocalist and the likes of Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar singing her praises. But who is the real Simz? Read on and find out...
Little Simz recording and mixing her new album at Red Bull Studios, London on May 26th, 2015
Little Simz in the vocal booth
People think I’m from East London sometimes – I spend my days in east, so I guess that’s what it is. But I’m from North London – Essex Road to be exact – and I feel like you can tell that. It’s an influence on me, definitely.
I was crazy young when I first heard hip-hop. I mean, like seven or so. It was Missy Elliot, I think. I know I was infatuated with her videos. I used to dance at that time so I wanted to be in her videos. And from that point on I just fell in love with hip-hop. Then I got into Lauryn Hill and I got more in-depth with it, Tupac, Nas, Jay-Z… and then I started making my own music.
My youth club, St Mary’s on Upper Street, was very influential on me. Just because it was where it all began for me, it was like a second home for me. It was somewhere to go after school instead of just hanging round on the roads, causing trouble or whatever. We had dance, the gym for the boys, cooking classes, we used to go on trips. It was like a big family.
I like acting a lot but if it’s a choice between that and music, it’s music all the way. With acting, like on Youngers, I had to put my life on hold and I’m not sure how much I like that! But when it's my music it's my special thing I can do what I want, I can live and I can talk about life through it; I don't really have to put my music on hold, I can just go about my everyday life and have experiences and have things to talk about. So that's what separates the two for me.
My musical influences these days are my friends. I still check for them musically, even though we’re tight. Josh Arcé, Chuck 20, Tila – I’ve worked with them, but I’m still a fan of what they do. I can’t wait for their projects to come out – I’m a proper fangirl!
Watch Little Simz's Dead Body video - story continues below
Touring with Schoolboy Q was mad. It was my first tour and to be doing it on that scale was live – I followed him to Dublin, Glasgow, Birmingham, two London shows… it’s definitely opened a lot of doors for me.
Even before I got that that co-sign from Kendrick I was a fan of his work. What he’s done, what he’s achieved… I love his music as a listener, that hasn’t changed.
Speaking of the States, I think it’s sick that the NWA film is coming out. I hope it gives a bit more of an insight into the group and especially into Dre, because a lot of people my age just think he makes headphones! I know that’s not everyone, but people have said that to me. Others know who NWA were, but don’t really know what they went through to change the game, so I think it’s great that the film is here to show us all what happened.
I said on Twitter that I was “looking like Lady Heisenberg” in my Dead Body video. That’s to do with the slightly grim subject matter – it’s a homeless man's perspective, because this whole album is written through different people's points of view and different characters come into play. It's a bit of a mind-fuck!
That line "I might as well sell my soul, as I don't feel like a part of the world right now..." That's an analogy for the industry and how I feel: stepping into a world where, maybe, fame will arrive at some point and how do I feel about that? I've had people saying, "Is Simz about to sell her soul? Is that what it's about?" But that's not the point... it's very much about story-telling, it's very conceptual.
I’m not doing all [my music] on my own label as some big “fuck you”, firing shots at anybody. It’s just that I haven’t met a label yet whom I can trust to hand my work over to. This is all just way too precious to me. I guess I’m just a control-freak when it comes to my music.
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