The young Brit is one of rap’s most exciting acts.
It’s a great time for female rappers. After years of marginalisation, they’re finally gaining the respect they deserve with a new crop of artists being judged on their lyrical abilities instead of their looks.
While the likes of Cardi B, Lizzo and City Girls have been dominating the American charts, it’s the U.K. where some of the most exciting wordsmiths are being unearthed. Stefflon Don, Lady Leshurr and Ms Banks are slowly breaking free of stereotypes, but if there’s one rapper who’s leading the pack, it’s 25-year-old Little Simz. Rising to fame off the back of her early mixtapes, Simz is now three albums deep into a career most artists can only dream of. This year’s GREY Area is both her most accessible and critically acclaimed album thus far; the material got a fair workout during an unforgettable performance at Melbourne’s Corner Hotel.
Walking out in a white tee and denim overalls with a mini-megaphone in hand, Simz got things underway with the funky ‘Boss’, the audience singing along during the aggressive chorus. Thanking everyone for coming out on a Sunday night, Simz quickly had the capacity crowd waving their arms and bouncing along to the soulful ‘God Bless Mary’, dedicated to her old neighbour, the playful ‘Pressure’ and cathartic ‘Backseat’, with Simz ending the track acapella.
Simz has come a long way both as a performer and a lyricist, with her willingness to tackle issues affecting her personally and society at large through her raps a key to her appeal. On the bass-heavy ‘Therapy’ Simz discussed her negative experience with the titular subject, while on the hard-hitting ‘Wounds’ she rapped about youth violence, with the final verse a heartbreaking tale about a friend of hers who was stabbed to death over a woman. It’s not all doom and gloom though. Before ‘Venom’ Simz tells the crowd she’s “going to rap a bit, and when it drops I need you to fucking lose it,”; the audience did exactly that. Simz also flexed her musical muscles by picking up the bass for the hip-shaking ‘Sherbet Sunset’.
Mid-performance, Simz turned the gig over to her DJ, OTG, for a groove-laden interval. Along with the band’s drummer, synth player and Simz back on bass, OTG led the foursome in a rendition of Soul Mann & The Brothers’ ‘Bumpy’s Lament’, a song that got a second life when Dr Dre sampled it for the funky as hell ‘Xxplosive’. Midway through their jam, they interpolated The Isley Brothers classic ‘Between The Sheets’, causing a few Notorious B.I.G. fans to applaud enthusiastically.
‘Selfish’ was another well-received cut off GREY Area, while Simz took the audience to North London with ‘101 FM’; the closest she’s come to dropping a fully-fledged grime banger. The opening drum fill of ‘Offence’ sent the crowd into meltdown as Simz attacked the mic with gusto. People lost their shit when she did a rewind, restarting the track as she jumped around the stage and rapped the first verse again with a huge grin on her face.
Handing out white roses as ‘Offence’ came to a close, Simz thanked the crowd one last time before leaving the stage, with even the bar staff applauding. Despite the gig lasting just a tad over an hour, Simz put on a dynamic performance and signalled herself as not only one of the best female rappers going, but one of the best rappers in the game.
Lowlight: People talking throughout the show. Save your money, stay home, listen on Spotify and stop annoying those around you.
Crowd favourite: ‘Offence’