Little Simz on Her Debut Album, Artistic Authenticity & Learning Patience

Joseph Okpako/Redferns
Little Simz performs on Day 1 of Lovebox festival taking place at Victoria park on July 17, 2015 in London, United Kingdom.

After much anticipation, Little Simz’s debut album, A Curious Case of Trials + Persons, is out and ready for the world to hear. The LP speaks to Simz’s complexity and concept-inclined lyricism. In a recent conversation with Billboard, Simz shares some insights on making the album in Red Bull Studios, being vulnerable as an artist and staying balanced amidst her rising popularity. 

The album can be purchased here on iTunes.

In your writing process, what comes first -- the lyric or the concept? 

The lyric. And then, with that, I kind of build the concept. Once I've got a few lyrics down and decided what the concept will be, I go back and amend them to make it more suited.

I've read that you've been rapping from an early age. When did you realize that sharing your story, in particular, was something you needed to do? 

Still from that early age, from 9. I feel like when I was 14, I wanted to expand and take it more serious. And then I kind of did that. From 14-21, it was more just for me being like, “Yo, this is what I want my life to be. This is what I want my career to be,” and so I just stuck at it. 

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Is there any fan comment or experience that stands out to you in terms of how your story or insights have touched them?

Yeah, I've had my fair share of encounters with supporters, and they've just blown me away. I did a show in Germany and some kid, he was disabled, he was actually in a wheelchair, and he came out to my show and he couldn't get across to me what he was trying to say and you could see that he was frustrated because he couldn't fully express himself, and I just felt like, “Wow, he's just really passionate about me.” Like, he kissed my hand, and it was just so sweet. It was like, this kid, he's in this life situation, and he's come out to my show. I somehow relate to him or his story without me even knowing, and it's just, you'll never know who you touch or who's listening to you. Yeah, that was kinda mad. 

You have a way of being really vulnerable. You're letting people know what's on your mind, but you have a tougher, edgier sound sometimes too. How do you have these elements existing together in your music?

I don't even really look at it like that. It's just me. It's just who I am. Everyone has sides to them and I just give you all the sides that I have. There's times that I can be quite fierce or quite militant or whatever, and there are times where I'm very shy and I'm not opened, don't really want to talk about my feelings but I feel like I should because it's therapeutic and also, like you said, I'm showing my vulnerable side unless I can really get to see in me in real life. So when I'm writing about it, it's a chance for me to open up in a sense. But yeah, honestly, it doesn't really cross my mind. I just write about how I'm feeling at the time, if I feel like being cheeky and a bit straight up and a bit aggressive, you'll hear that in my music. If I feel like being very vulnerable and opening up about something personal, you'll hear that too. But one thing, it's never forced.        

Your lyrics are really dense and insightful. You can tell that you're a very introspective person. Have you always been that way?

No. Ok, I think yeah, but as I've grown older, I've learned to trust what I believe in more as opposed to what people tell me what I should believe in and people, not forcing their opinions on me, but making me believe that's the way. It's like to step out of that and just be like, “I'm going to see things for how I want to see them, have my own opinions on things,” and I've just had that mentality, I think. It's been a long time, but I'm growing to be more of that person. 

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In your song "Time Capsule," you're asking yourself and your audience, "What would you say to a younger you?" What would you say to younger artists trying to do what you're doing?

I would say you have to learn patience and you have to stand for what you really believe in. Don't rush anything, because that's not the way either. For me, that's one thing I learned. And there's a difference between being hungry and being desperate. Keep your hunger, but don't be desperate because desperation will lead you to do things that isn't you like changing who you are, what you're about because you're desperate for that limelight or you're desperate for that attention, whereas hunger is more just you're passionate and you're fierce and you're… It's just a difference, so yeah be hungry but don't be desperate. 

How are you feeling about your about having your album out?

I'm very confident in this album and I think it's very, very sick, but I just feel like I don't want people to automatically hear it once and then have an opinion. I want you to live with it, I want you to play it in your car and then listen to it in your headphones at night and just like listen to it through your life. Just live with it. And then make up your mind about how you feel about it if it's changed your thinking in any way. That's what I want. I'm not looking for just a quick…if that's the case, I would've put out another EP. That's not what I'm looking for in this album. I just really want people to live with it and enjoy the stories and take it in. 

Do you feel like the process of putting A Curious Case of Trials + Persons together has been different from what you've done in the past?

Yeah, to an extent, and no. Yes, because of how it was good to give it the space I was in when I was making it and also taking me out of my bedroom studio and putting me into Red Bull Studios and having me record the whole record there. It was obviously very different and new to me. But, no in a sense where I'm just making music that I want to make as I've always been doing throughout this time and I've been fortunate enough to work with people that I want to work with and that I've worked with before and that I feel comfortable working with and that get me and I get them. And so, not much really changed to be fair. There was just more effort put into this, I think. It was very precious.

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How do you stay balanced with your growing popularity? 

I have a good family. I have good friends. I have people that actually care about my wellbeing as opposed to just work and just need me for work or whatever. Like, people that genuinely look out for me and my health knowing how much work I put in. It's like they genuinely have my best interest at heart and that helps a lot to know that people care about me on a human level as opposed to just the artist. I'm just that person anyway. I don't get fazed by things easily. I don't really care about much, I'm just not interested in a lot. I'm just interested in the well being of my close ones, my music, the message I'm portraying, how my efforts are contributing to society. 

Your content doesn't cover what a lot of female artists are pushed to sing or talk about, yet you are getting the same volume of fans. What do you think this says about your presence as a female lyricist and why you've been able to do what you do and get this kind of response from people?

I feel like people can tell it's honest and this wasn't put together by a label, this wasn't molded by the industry. This is as authentic as you can imagine and I just think people can tell when something's not real or when something's shaped by the industry and I'm not that, and so that's probably why I feel like people take to me, but I don't know. It could be for a completely different reason I'm not known to. I try not to even focus on that. I just continue doing what I'm doing, because it's obviously working, so I feel like the moment I know the answer to it, I'll probably start to overthink it a bit and it might not feel as natural.