North London rapper Little Simz is finally receiving the plaudits she has been working towards. She’s been writing and performing since she was 9 years old, and in her words, was “ready to blow” at the ripe old age of 11. After releasing three mixtapes, her fourth, Blank Canvas, was premiered on Jay Z’s ‘Life & Times’ website, and soon after she received acclaim across the industry from the likes of Zane Lowe and former President of Motown Records, Sylvia Rhone. Rhone saw Simz’s intelligent lyrics, undeniable charisma and determination as “a breath of fresh air in the industry”. After meeting with Rhone, Simz, now 19, was flown to New York to perform for L.A. Reid, the legendary boss of Epic Records, who signed the likes of Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Usher – a surefire sign of the level of success soon to come her way.
Dazed Digital: In your experience, what’s the London rap scene like for emerging talent?
Little Simz: It can go one of two ways. You can create a buzz – which I think I’m doing – or you can have one song that just takes off. There’s only a handful of female rappers in a very male-dominated environment so for me to break through I really have to prove myself and make a bold statement.
DD: What do you think makes a good rapper?
Little Simz: Being able to be honest. A lot of people are not truthful enough. Also, someone who can tell a story and teach me something without preaching to me. I talk to people about my experiences being a 19-year-old girl in London, and I also ask a lot of questions.
DD: You’re part of a collective – Space Age. How has being part of a collective helped you in your career?
Little Simz: First and foremost we’re just a group of friends. It just so happens that we all have similar interests. We all do music. We all have the same drive, the same common goal and everyone motivates each other. If one person in the group is doing a video shoot we’ll all be there to support or if I’m doing a gig they’ll all turn up. It’s great to have that foundation and to feel really grounded. In this industry I need to have some normality so I can come back to my friends and talk about what’s on telly!
DD: What’s your recent track “Bad” about?
Little Simz: It’s me being a little rebel. I chose it because of the energy. It’s a vibe that is very current right now. It’s fun – you can play it in a club and you can play it in a car. But from my new EP you can expect growth and progression. It’s darker. It’s also my first record where the beats are all handmade for the project – it’s all original material. There are limited features but my team, Space Age, will be featured on it. I’m going to release it this spring or summer.
DD: Is there anyone you’d particularly like to collaborate with?
Little Simz: I’d like to collaborate with Chance The Rapper, and Vic Mensa – he’s another up and coming rapper from Chicago. Also the singer, Banks. But I want to be able to establish myself as an artist in my own right right now as I’m just finding my feet.
DD: What does 2014 hold for you?
Little Simz: I hope to be on the verge of releasing my debut album. This summer I’d like to do all the festivals. I love performing, especially with the live band. Jimi Hendrix has inspired me to play guitar in my set as well, I’m gonna try it.