Album Review of Stillness In Wonderland by Little Simz.
Release Date: Dec 16, 2016
Record label: Age 101
Following a lauded debut release and praise from Kendrick Lamar and Jay Z, 22-year-old rapper Little Simz is joined on her second album by grime MCs Chip and Ghetts, the Internet’s vocalist Syd and fellow Space Age Collective members. London-born Simz speaks candidly about love, growing up and intuition as she journeys down the rabbit hole of self-discovery. The album’s mix of soul, R&B, grime and trippy, jazz-tinged interludes is at times a little muddled, but Simz’s lyrical agility and deft rapping sit comfortably with a variety of production styles.
Little Simz is an anomaly, exuding humble vulnerability and steely confidence in the same breath. On her latest full-length, Stillness in Wonderland (the followup to her 2015 debut album A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons) she oscillates between those spheres deftly, forthrightly spitting one moment — "Is heaven my place? / I'm forever in space / On some shit I need changing / I'll confess to your face" on "Her (interlude)," over congas — and opening up about anxiety the next. On opening track "LMPD," for example, she asks, "Have I let my people down?" as downcast guitars and synths encroach on her voice from all sides.
Rapper Simbi Ajikawo, who records as Little Simz, is by all measures on an upward trajectory, with comparisons to iconoclasts like Lauryn Hill and praise from craft-minded virtuosos like Kendrick Lamar (the latter said Simz “might be the illest doing it now. ”) By last year’s A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons, she’d experienced enough fame to be ambivalent about it—“the type of music that ain’t never gonna sell,” she rapped on “Wings. ” But sell it did, enough for Simz’s next album to feature notably well-curated guests (though not Lamar; that collaboration will probably be pretty great whenever it inevitably happens).
Two weeks are left in the year, and most publications have already delivered their year-end lists, a bold move considering December’s recent track record for late-game surprises. (We’re as guilty as anybody.) In our rush to get our critical opinions out before others, we postulate that nothing better lies on the horizon. You know what they say about the spelling of “assume,” right? Well, Little Simz made one of all of us with Stillness in Wonderland.
The extended video for Little Simz’s sophomore effort features the British rapper wandering through the levels of a gutted building; its inhabitants obscured by moody lights and haze. A voiceover tells her that she must always follow the white rabbit. It’s clear this is Simz’s version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, only darker and full of imagery springing from the city rather than the English countryside.