Album Review: Stillness In Wonderland – Little Simz

Historians usually split the periods of time on most remarkable events. The discovery of America, the beginning of the French Revolution, the assassination at Sarajevo in 1914. The past year appears to have become one of these caesuras. Donald Trump is President elect of the United States of America, populism is rising in Europe and you would honestly rather just hide under a stone forever. Or plummet into a rabbit’s hole à la Lewis Carroll and flee into Wonderland.

Simbi Ajikawo – alias Little Simz – was born in London in 1994. She released her debut album A Curious Tale Of Trials + Persons in 2015 and her sophomore album Stillness In Wonderland in December 2016. She’s been making a name for herself in the past seven years and worked with the likes of Stormzy, Kehlani and Bibi Bourelly. Her own label Age 101 released several EPs in this time. On her first album she discussed the music industry in a very critical light. “LMPD” [= Let My People Down] alongside Chronixx is the first track of Stillness In Wonderland and picks up on the subject. Both artists contemplate on whether or not they have actually done what they’ve always been afraid of: letting their people down. The people that have supported and helped them on their way. Ajikawo is a black woman and as that she’s constantly confronted with and fighting everyday racism and sexism, be it in the industry or the world in general.

That’s when the Cheshire Cat, the narrator of the album’s interludes, first appears. He welcomes Simbi to Wonderland but also warns her to not let it become her reality. Lewis Carroll created the character in Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, which works as a blueprint for the album. Simz raps, talks and sings about the dangers of success, her insecurities, trust issues, love, men, suicide. SiR doesn’t want to be an overnight sensation and Simbi just wants to be heard, to do a record you can’t stop playing. On “One In Rotation”, Syd, Odd Future alumni and lead singer of neo funk band The Internet, delivers a refrain about men who just can’t understand that they – Simbi and Syd – rule anyway; Berlin-born Bibi Bourelly purrs into the mic for “Bad To The Bone” and Simbi gets support from Grime legends Chip and Ghetts on “King of Hearts”. Not all too surprising after Stormzy and Kano rerecorded “Dead Body” with Simz last year, but still genuinely badass.

London’s music scene clearly shaped and influenced Ajikawo’s music. UK Garage and Grime have always been a part of her music, but R&B and Hip Hop haven’t been far, either. It has been said about many artists but it’s actually true for Simz: she’s versatile and unpredictable but still manages to create a signature sound. She writes, produces and arranges her music herself and is just as much into classical as unusual elements – the kick-ass beat for “King of Hearts” mainly consists of cellos and trumpets. In general the album sounds refreshingly hand-made; especially in the context of a genre which seems to be threatening to drown in its own synthetics at times.

Simz also released a short film and a [currently out of stock] comic book alongside the album. Both follow the narrative and style of the album and meander through Wonderland beautifully. Ajikawo goes into the main question of the album on the last track again. To backtrack into Wonderland at times isn’t a shame. Au contraire, it can help you to regain power for what’s out there; for reality. Because ultimately that is where you’ll have to return to. “Real shit is happening and my people need me. And therefore: I’m out.”

Purchase Stillness In Wonderland on iTunes and stream it on Spotify.

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