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Little Simz: ‘I haven’t found a home in religion, but I do have a very strong sense of faith’

Mr. Nimbus | 04/28/2023

Mercury Prize winning artist Little Simz joins Zane Lowe in-studio on Apple Music 1 for a wide-ranging conversation about her latest album ’NO THANK YOU’ and her creative process. She tells Apple Music about the important lesson she learned from collaborating with Damon Albarn, reflects on the breakout success of her album ‘GREY Area’, being “really, really inspired” by Missy Elliott, the importance of having a strong support system, her faith journey, having to cancel her 2022 tour during a particularly rough period, and more.

Little Simz Tells Apple Music About Titling Her Latest Album ’NO THANK YOU’…

It was just the realization of the power of the word “no”. Politely, though. It had so many negative things attached to it. And actually it’s like, “No.” There’s so much power in the word no, in a positive way. And just standing for something can be like, “No, I’m actually all right.” It’s not compromising anything here.

Little Simz Tells Apple Music The Important Lesson She Learned From Working with Damon Albarn…

I remember first getting into the studio with D for the first time, and my anxiety just being through the roof like, “This is mad.” And trying to, I guess, I felt myself trying to mold myself into what their thing was. And I remember Damon peeping it and being like, “No, that’s not why I called you in here. I called you in here because I want you to do that thing only you can do.” And I think from that, I was just like, “Oh, okay. So, every space I walk into, all I’ve got to do is bring myself.” That’s what I took from Damon, you know what I’m saying? You ain’t got to mold yourself, or try and fit into … No, man. If you’re in that room, it’s because of you. And what would’ve happened if I just brought myself at that point? So, that’s something that, yeah, I’ll always have so much love and respect for Damon for that one thing he said to me. He’s lovely, man. Anyone that’s kind of worked with him, he always has a space for them. You know what I’m saying? Whether it’s, “Cool, we’re playing here, come out and do this song on this show.” There’s always a space to be a part of that family. It’s ever-extending, it’s ever-growing, and he’s built that. It’s really inspiring for me, anyway.

Little Simz Tells Apple Music About The Breakout Success of Her Last Album ‘GREY Area’…

It’s going to be 35 minutes. It’s got to be 10 songs, very direct, very to the point. I’m going to say everything that’s been brewing, and then kind of see what happens. And honestly, I had no expectation of that album. I didn’t think it was going to be the breakthrough record. And I just wanted to create, and like I said, get back into that space. And it’s funny because that is the first album that I didn’t have expectations with, and it’d done the most. And Grey Area was the first record where I was like, regardless of what this does or doesn’t do. I’m tapping into something, and I’m going for it.

Little Simz Reflects on Her 2021 Album ’Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’…

Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. I was so into like, no, I need to focus on the one thing I know I can do with my eyes closed and in my sleep, and that’s write. And so I’m going to hone in on that and really trust the process. And it was a beautiful experience from just recording. I mean, there was a lot going on in the world at the time with the pandemic stuff, so that obviously inspired a lot of music.And even our recording process, we’d done some strings in a church, writing in my car, I was writing in my bedroom, I was writing in the studio. I was in so many different spaces just trying to get out what I wanted to say. And yeah, it was a really beautiful process. It was really tough as well. I think I was as tough on myself. Yeah, for sure. Especially coming off the back of Grey Area. I know people are going to be listening now. Every lyric, every line.

Little Simz Tells Apple Music About Being Influenced By Missy Elliott and Nas…

I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the greats that have come before me. Missy. Missy Elliott. Just based on the pure fact that she was a Black woman in hip hop, and she just stood out by being herself. That is something that I’ll always remember, just be like, oh, she’s so herself. That’s sick. That’s what I want to do. Not to mention, Timbo was going crazy on the beats. The videos are crazy. I heart her. And what she’s done, just even behind the scenes when she’s been producing or been writing songs for other people. She is so really about it. And I just remember being really, really inspired by her. Yeah, for sure. Missy. And then my brother was a huge NAS fan, and I just remember riding with him in the car, and just taking him in, and being like, I don’t understand the level of what he’s saying, but he’s so smart. He’s a real lyricist. Very, very vivid. It’s immersive. Yeah. Your body kind of has a physical reaction to the auditory experience.

Little Simz Tells Apple Music About The Challenges and Benefits of Expressing Emotions In Her Music…

I think in the UK, or to be honest, just in Black music and Black culture, it’s not a thing to talk about how you feel and emotions and this and going to therapy, what? That’s not a thing, do you know? Or at least back then, anyway, when I was coming up. So it was challenging…I don’t know, man, something in me was just like, continue to do that, and I guess as more people start listening to me, and also feedback is really important. When you hear someone tell you that you said that, and that actually really resonated. It’s like, oh, cool. So people do feel like this. And it makes you feel a lot less alone. It makes you feel like this is real stuff that people be going through, and I’m going to talk on this more. You know what I’m saying? And people tell you, do you know what? I thank you for saying that, because I feel this, but I’m not a writer, or I don’t know how to express myself in this kind of way.

Little Simz Tells Apple Music About The Importance of Having a Strong Support System…

I’ve been blessed because I’ve had such a great support system behind me. My mom, brothers and sisters were very, very supportive of my dreams and go for it, we’re going to back you, we’re going to be in your corner and I think that helps because I think as an artist, self-doubt and having periods where you don’t necessarily believe in yourself, is almost inevitable sometimes. When you have the support system around you, that in those times can help bring you back to that point of believing in self, is really helpful.

Little Simz Tells Apple Music About Having To Cancel 2022 Tour Dates During a Rough Period…

I remember I just had to cancel my US tour and that was a really rough period. I was switching teams around and stuff. Mm-hmm (affirmative) and just things not being handled the way they should have been. I take accountability for sure because I know my 50%. But I had to protect myself in that space and my mental wellbeing. And I think I’m really thankful that I have support from fans as I do that, actually we’re like, “Yo, it’s all good.” Yeah, so it’s always like, all right, cool, I can’t come out and see you, but I have got new music for you. And guess what? I’m going to come and tour both albums.

Little Simz on The Importance of Her Nigerian Heritage…

It’s super important. I mean, in my household it was very Nigerian. From my mom speaking Yoruba to me, from our foods, what she would cook, to the music she played, to what she was watching, Nollywood movies and then as soon as I opened my front door, it’s like, London.

Little Simz on Navigating The Industry as an Independent Artist…

Our art is really all we have. This is a way in which we’re able to really express ourselves and make the most out of what we have. I’m someone that is very big on, all right, cool, we ain’t got budget to do this, we’re going to figure it out. If we’re shooting a video, I got some clothes, I can borrow my sister’s stuff, I know your brother’s got mad hats, let’s get him in the video. You know what I’m saying? Just trying to work with the resources we have amongst each other to make something happen and so learning that independence was something that I’d kind of built from early without even really recognizing it at the time.

Little Simz Tells Apple Music About Learning To Be Self Sufficient From a Young Age…

This is a pattern of mine. And I think, also going back to, I guess, childhood and this thing of, okay, I grew up in a single-parent household, and I saw my mom work so many different jobs. And so I didn’t know how to ask for things because I saw that she was working and busy and doing her thing. And so as much as I grew up in a very loving household, I never wanted to put more of my thing on her. So I’d retreat and figure things out myself. And I think as I’ve gotten older, that’s a trait that’s followed me or that I’ve continued to have.

Little Simz Tells Apple Music About Juggling Various Creative Disciplines and Learning As She Goes…

I think that’s something that I’ve kind of, not struggled with, but I’ve found challenging over the years, is to wear a few different hats and still be myself and still be Simbi, but then also be the boss and then be the performer and then be the actor and the all around creative… to be honest and those labels get put onto you and then, for me to step in that and walk in that light and be like, okay, cool. Maybe that is a purpose of mine to be a voice of some sort, but also I’m human. You know what I’m saying, so I’m going to make very human mistakes. That’s okay. I never want to repeat the same mistakes, but I’m open to making new ones because I’m human.

Little Simz Tells Apple Music About Her Faith Journey…

Well, I grew up in a very Muslim, Islamic household, my parents were Muslim. And as I got older, I kind of transitioned out of Islam to not knowing what I believe in, to be very honest. And in my teen years it’s like, “I don’t know. But something I guess.” I just didn’t believe it. I just felt like a bit of a fraud, to be honest. I’d see my mom pray five times a day. I wasn’t doing that. I wasn’t covering my hair in the hijab. I wasn’t fasting during Ramadan. I wasn’t going to the mosque. I wasn’t. And I just didn’t think, that didn’t resonate and that didn’t sit well with me. And so I kind of went for a period where I didn’t really know what I believed in. And then to now being like, “Oh, I’ve got my own relationship with God, and I speak to God all the time.” And I banter with God, I have my own, when I used to pray and stuff, I used to be very, sometimes I’d slip up and say swear words and be like, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” But actually, it’s like my relationship with God is what it is, and it’s very personal to me. And same, I haven’t found a home in religion, but I do have a very strong sense of faith.

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Written by Mr. Nimbus

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