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Little Simz

Authoritative and lyrical rapper and actor Little Simz has become one of the most notable voices in hip-hop since her debut at the top of the 2010s. Independent recordings such as Blank Canvas (2013) and E.D.G.E. (2014) led to a Worldwide Awards nod, the first major accolade for the British-Ghanaian artist. A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons (2015) and Stillness in Wonderland (2016), her vividly imaginative first two albums, increased her momentum before she joined producer Inflo for Grey Area (2019) and Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (2021). Both of these full-lengths topped the U.K. R&B chart, with the former winning an Ivor Novello award, and the latter the Mercury Prize. Working quickly, Simz returned at the end of 2022 with the confident and hard-edged No Thank You. The more scaled down EP, Drop 7, appeared in early 2024. Born and raised in Islington, London, Simbiatu Ajikawo -- originally known as Lil Simz -- established herself as an actor while in her teens, first in the BBC series Spirit Warriors, and continuing with E4's Youngers. Having performed at youth clubs well before her first screen roles, she saw music as her primary calling, and as she appeared in those first two series, from 2010 through 2013, she self-released her first four mixtapes. Stratosphere, Stratosphere 2, XY.Zed, and the particularly well-received Blank Canvas were followed by a slew of EPs, such as the album-length E.D.G.E., throughout 2014 and into 2015. She was crowned Breakthrough Artist of the Year at BBC DJ Gilles Peterson's Worldwide Awards in early 2015, and that September offered A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons, considered her first true LP. Still independent with her label Age 101, she returned in December 2016 with Stillness in Wonderland, a concept album inspired by Alice in Wonderland that reflected upon the ups and downs of young adulthood and her adjustment to fame. After she opened for Gorillaz and was featured on the group's track "Garage Palace" in 2017 -- the same year she narrated the animated documentary shorts series Afrofuturism -- Simz snared a licensing deal with the Sony-owned AWAL Recordings. Her third album was previewed in 2018 with some of her rawest yet most musical tracks, collaborations with producer Inflo. Grey Area, the parent release, arrived the next March with Inflo the sole producer excepting single assists from Sigurd and Astronote. Inflo affiliates Michael Kiwanuka and Cleo Sol, along with Little Dragon and Chronixx, were on-board with featured appearances. Grey Area was Simz's first charting album, peaking at number 87 on the main U.K. chart, and topping the R&B chart. It was nominated for the 2019 Mercury Prize, and in 2020 won Best Album at the Ivor Novello Awards. As the accolades piled up, Simz continued acting with a role in series three of Top Boy. The next September, she entered the U.K. album chart at number four with Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, produced almost entirely by Inflo with Cleo Sol featured on the celebratory single "Woman." The album was widely hailed by critics and, among its many honors, took home the Mercury Prize and a MOBO for Album of the Year. In early December 2022, barely a week after receiving her MOBO, Simz made the surprise announcement that her fifth album, No Thank You, was about to be released. A sharply written treatise on mental health and the music industry, No Thank You arrived with little promotional fanfare, but plenty of swagger. Its organic production (again courtesy of Inflo) and rousing orchestral elements echoed the style of her previous album while moving her craft solidly forward. Taking a break from the full-length format, Simz collaborated with U.K. producer Jakwob on 2024's Drop 7, the latest installment her long-running Drop EP series. While smaller in scope and more relaxed in tone, the seven-song release still bore the rapper's unmistakably sharp style.
© Andy Kellman /TiVo


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