In Wonderland With Little Simz

People’s perceptions can be skewed by social media opinions. When we see artists online who are perceived to have the world in their hands, their level of interactivity can sometimes make us believe that the demand is more than it really is. But when it comes to the real markers of success in the music industry, it always comes down to one thing – numbers.

It’s all good having a million views on your video, but can you get people to spend money on your artistic vision? Can you get them to buy a ticket and leave their houses to watch you put on a show?

This music world is strange. Perception, more often than not, becomes reality to most who are only limited by the things they consume online. As much as we hail typical rappers for doing their thing, there are other artists doing something entirely different. Little Simz has been releasing music consistently since before I found her AGE 101 projects. It might be because you don’t hear her music in the clubs or being spun multiple times a day on the radio, but Simz has been out here. Cultivating supporters, both here and internationally, Little Simz has gathered pace dropping bars with conceptual music.

On Sunday 12th February, Little Simz kicked off her own indoor festival, gathering together artists from the underground circuit to perform at The Roundhouse. Having a headline show is one thing, but being able to attract other artists to demonstrate their art in support of your own festival is ambitious. But that’s Simz. Never one to back down to a challenge.

Artists like Space Age, Mick Jenkins and Sipprell also an intriguing singer who is capturing fans like a fisherman’s net – all performed to new and familiar fans. These weren’t just warm up acts. There were full productions. Simz created a festival vibe without the mud and rain. An atmosphere that enabled music lovers to consume different sounds across two stages. This was no typical headline show it was a refreshing take on how to promote musicians.

As the second stage ended, everyone crammed in to witness the main event. The Roundhouse was a roadblock. From the front row to the seats above, people were here to see King Simbi. For this audience radio plays didn’t matter, this was just real tangible evidence that the music Little Simz creates has the ability to gather together thousands of people.

As her band stepped out on stage, the guitarist wasted no time in proving why he was hired, the speakers soared with the sounds of ‘Stillness In Wonderland’. The presence of live instrumentation in the studio production was one thing, hearing the music live was nothing short of amazing.

Song after song, Simz showed no signs of slowing down, the level of engagement was evident in the power of this North London’s rappers music. After dipping into some tracks from her debut album ‘A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons’, the lights changed to a vibrant red and the show shifted gears.

Midway through the show, as the music stopped, the lights went out and Simz introduced ‘King Of Hearts’. Before anyone had time to wonder if the featured artist would make an appearance, fellow North Londoner Chip ran out on stage and jumped straight into his verse causing the crowd to get so hyped that they had to do a reload. Simz has proven she can spray on Grime in the past but with this song, she brought Grime veterans to her sound. A few verses later, Ghetts span on stage like a Tasmanian devil. At no point did he stop moving on stage for people to even capture him with their camera-phones, he literally forced you to forget your device and focus on where the action is. The embrace that Ghetts, Chip and Simz shared at the end was pure elation.

Drawing the show to a close, Simz started to perform ‘Dead Body’ before she stopped the track in the middle of her verse. “Nah. You lot are turnt enough. How can I change that?” As the song started again, the hottest MC on these British Isles walked out to a rapturous applause. Previously, Little Simz enlisted Stormzy for the remix and on this night, everyone got to see him perform his verse with the voracity that we’ve come to expect from Big Mike. Those who are fans of the remix were already thinking about the next person to potentially step out. Fortunately, their expectations were met when Grime legend Kano who ran out and sprayed one of the best verses of that year. Wearing a Space hoodie in support, he delivered his verse with accuracy and purpose. Kano is a professional performer who enjoyed himself on stage alongside Little Simz someone he’s hailed in public multiple times. I personally saw him at the back of her listening session earlier in the year, incognito with his hood over this head. It was amazing to see the Simz bringing such heavyweights to her festival and share the stage with them. More importantly, her verses stood up next to them as she held her own on the microphone.

After 2 encores with her team joining her on stage, Little Simz is the proof that perception is not the entire story. Being able to sell out the same venue as Wiley and Ghetts is a significant achievement. The music game is big enough for everyone to exist. But to succeed and sustain a career is something that most are not fortunate to do. Little Simz and her team have independently created their own world which they’re continuing to share with committed following all over the planet. ‘Stillness In Wonderland’ is a strong body of work and likely to stand the test of time, not because of its social media presence, but because its just good music with a message baked into the words. This live experience made a great addition to 2017 and for those who were there, the performances will be remembered for years to come.