Breaking free from Wonderland
As I sat at my desk, refreshing my emails, I was losing hope. The day before, I put myself forward for the chance to attend an album listening session of North London’s own, Little Simz. When my phone vibrated on my desk, I was happy to find out that I made the cut.
Walking up to the venue brought more doubt into my mind. The queue of people the length of the East London theatre made me think that I wasn’t going to get in. As I stared at the strangely large full moon, I drew closer to the door. Fortunately, the security and door staff were on the ball and surprisingly quickly, I was in.
As I picked up my complimentary tropical Red Bull, I surveyed the room to find familiar faces. Not finding any, I positioned myself in a corner and waited for whatever was going to happen. As the lights dimmed and the spotlight flooded the stage with light, Eddie, Little Simz manager, graced the stage, explained the plan for the evening and introducing the main reason why we were all here.
Simbi walked on stage with her video director, Jeremy Cole, and went on to speak about a short film they have only recently completed 2 weeks ago. An overhead projector illuminated a large screen on stage and the room fell silent.
“But, I nearly forgot, you must close your eyes, unless you won’t see anything”
The video started with Simz in a house which looked like a setting for a thriller. Chipped paint on the walls and floorboards gave a weathered look. It wasn’t long after trying to understand what was going on when the scene changed and the music played. Simz was seen walking through a room with blindfolded individuals. The dimmed light and green shadows were a great display of mood setting. Visually, it was engaging. It showed a lost character, trying to find her way whilst surrounded by weird figures. There was a metaphor in there somewhere but I was too distracted by the level of enjoyment I was experiencing listening to the music.
“I knew who I was this morning. I’ve changed a few times since then”
As the second song played, the bass and filtered sounds had me in a slight trance. Fortunately, the bars from Simz brought me back in focus. Speaking about trust issues and imperfections as a result of self-reflection, there was a clear message which fit with the visuals on screen.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road can take you there”
Personally, I felt Simz played an alternative version of Alice. It seemed that she was trapped. Constrained in this fun house with strange characters and apparently, a psychologist. Flashbacks appeared on screen showing the freedom that the character that ‘Alice’ yearned for. In a scene where Simz is laying on a chaise lounge chair, it seems that she’s lost in thought as the psychologist speaks to her. The last question, “Do you feel safe now?” is followed by a song with the chorus, “I don’t wanna be in this wonderland no more”.
Eddie, her manager, stood side of the stage with his hood up in his own world. Reciting the lyrics to himself, his arms extending like he was holding back a performance. You can tell that he has been living with this music. Waiting to release it to the world.
During the break, I clocked Kano standing in the crowd. It would totally make sense that he would be here. Considering that he is one of the first artists people draw for when giving an example of lyricism, for a Grime guy like me, to see him showing support is a great thing to witness.
“Tonight, the fight is to activate all the pineal glands”
As Simz introduced the album, we all stood as the first track blared through the speakers. A strong message was evident throughout the song. Social consciousness is something you would associate with Simz so it was great to hear her touch on subjects that are at the front of the minds of the people again.
As the tracks played through, I stood in this dark room with my eyes closed. The drums and melodies kept my head-bop consistent like a metronome. A song that could be titled ‘Trust Issue’ which I first heard in the short film was a pleasure to hear a second time. The sound of live instrumentation sounded great, even through these typical unforgiving club speakers. I can only imagine what they would sound like coming through the speakers I have at home. Fortunately, the album will be released on the 16th so I won’t have to wait long.
Whilst filmmaker Nathan Miller and I tried to figure out who was the male vocalist who was the first feature was, I looked around to see everyone’s head-knock was perfectly synchronised. I lost track of what number song we were on. This is because most of the songs had an alternative ending. A few of them I would love to hear as full tracks. As an up-tempo tune hit the crowd, 2-steps turned into dance moves. Simz, obviously happy with the reaction, walked out to the middle of the stage to a loudly applauding audience. The sound engineer got the memo and reloaded the tune.
That wouldn’t be the only reload (or restart) of the night. A song featuring Chip made everyone lose it! It wasn’t until the 3rd reload that we heard that Ghetts also was on the track. Certified banger.
By this time, the crowd was in full swing. Feet became unstuck from the floor as people started moving more. This music had a kinetic reaction. Songs with weird drum patterns had me trying to find the correct bop to commit to so I didn’t look silly. One thing was for certain, the majority of the people here found it hard to stand still.
As ‘Poison Ivy’ played, hardcore fans showed that they already know the words to this song that was only realised a few days ago. Simz stood in the shadows, back pressed against the wall, rapping every lyric to every song. She seemed to be enjoying herself. Often playing the air guitar, drums and even, a trumpet.
Considering this event was only released with 24 hours notice, her fans showed out. The appreciation was clearly evident as loud cheers and handclaps followed every song.
Some would say that Little Simz is underrated. Well, I guess that depends on how you look at it. If you go to her webpage, you’ll find that she is about to go on a tour in Australia. Before that, before her UK tour, she was in the US flying the flag and showing her skills. It seems that it’s the wider audience at home that is playing catch-up. If you look further than this little island is clear to see that Simz is loved in multiple countries.
When you realise that, the question then turns to, why do people say she is underrated? To be honest, I don’t know. One thing is for sure, it hasn’t had an effect on how Little Simz moves as an artist. Always seen to put her best foot forward, her creativity in her songs and her music videos are some of the best in the UK. Little Simz serves as a fantastic export to the rest of the world to show the talent that exists here. Whether the support at home is prevalent or not, there’s no doubt it will stop King Simbi from escaping the wonderland and going global.
Click here to purchase and stream Stillness In Wonderland