British rapper Little Simz, or Simbiatu Abisola Abiola Ajikawo, closed out her North American Tour for her latest album NO THANK YOU (2022) at Terminal 5, NYC on Saturday, Oct. 14.
Simz’s previous album Sometimes I Might be Introvert (2021) defined her focus on finding validation through herself rather than through external forces. While in that album she attempts to uplift herself and others through storytelling and groovy riffs, her new album NO THANK YOU is more conceptual and spiritual, with more gospel sounds and affirmative lyricism. Simz’s transition from determination and ambition to total self-confidence between these albums was evident in her live performance. In the vein of total transparency and connectivity with her audience, Simz was often beaming onstage, picking out superfans to rap at, directing the audience on when to join in, and even taking the time to come to the front and take pictures with the crowd. The raw joy of Simz’s stage presence, alongside her heartfelt lyrics, gave the audience a palpable sense of hope. If Simz can not only get through her own mental burdens but spread so much happiness to us all as a result, then surely the rest of us will be alright too.
Simz also inspires us with the strong political and social statements in her music. In Sometimes I Might be Introvert, Simz highlights how feminism and sexism are still present today.
“I’m not into politics but I know it’s dark times / Parts of the world still living in apartheid,” Simz sings in the song “Introvert.”
Simz is no stranger to social injustice. At one point in the concert, Simz mentioned that she grew up in subsidized housing in Islington, London, and was still in awe that she was performing to a sold-out venue in New York. Simz was on that stage thanks to her pure talent, charisma, hard work, and (probably most importantly) intelligence. A major motif in NO THANK YOU is how she stayed smart in spite of the temptations, tricks, and cutthroat nature of the music industry. In the song “Angel,” Simz highlights the racism and exploitation that she avoided by refusing to sign with a label in the music industry, allowing her music to be honest and angry.
“They don’t care if your mental is on the brink of somethin’ dark / As long as you’re cuttin’ somebody’s payslip / And sendin’ their kids to private school in a spaceship,” Simz sings. “Yeah, I refuse to be on a slave ship / Give me all my masters and lower your wages / Huh, what I’m bringin’ to the table is more than a feast for the belly of the beast / Didn’t know I’m droppin’ somethin’ heavy for the streets.”
The energy of the concert proved her decision to remain independent was paying off. Simz was entirely herself on stage, sporting an oversized button-down and tie. Sometimes, she was accompanied by two musicians, but Simz spent most of her performance alone, leaving ephemeral spaces for the music to play uninhibited. It was a concert only someone entirely in tune with their own music could produce, and Simz’s performance was synonymous with her vision. Whereas some concerts can be overproduced and songs over-commercialized, Simz’s personal touch and creativity always shines through.
Little Simz is one the the greatest rappers of our time, not only because of the intelligence and beauty behind her music or because of her phenomenal performance skills, but because she says she is the greatest—and I believe her.
“My art will be timeless, I don’t do limits (No) / Be very specific when you talk on who the best is,” Simz raps in the song “Gorilla.”
While Simz was supposed to go on a North American tour in 2022 for her album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (2021), she had to cancel it due to monetary restrictions.
“Being an independent artist, I pay for everything encompassing my live performances out of my own pocket and touring the US for a month would leave me in a huge deficit,” Simz said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Simz has always been very open about the practical struggles of being an independent artist. However, the difficulties surrounding her cancelled tour were much more concerned with mental health rather than finances due to the pressure that the music industry places on artists. In a later part of her NYC show, Simz confided in the audience that mental health struggles were another driving force behind canceling the 2022 show. As a result, the 2023 tour shows how much Simz has overcome, especially since a lot of NO THANK YOU revolves around such mental health struggles.
“I’m very sure that when we leave here we will all go back to our own mental burdens,” Simz said.
Rather than ignoring such mental burdens, Simz told her audience to listen to themselves and let themselves feel, leading by example by nearly breaking down into tears. Simz revealed that good can come from the darkest of times in life, as one of these moments inspired her to write vulnerable and uplifting songs on NO THANK YOU.
Although this was the last show of the 2023 North American Tour, you will probably be hearing more from Little Simz soon, since she surprised the audience of her final show with an unreleased song. Even more surprising was the song itself, which utilized autotune, heavy bass, and a fast tempo, in contrast with Simz’s usually less heavily produced sound. The song evoked Lil Uzi Vert’s stylings much more than her usual Kendrick Lamar-esque music, and had the crowd rocking with delight.
“I’m tryna find my way,” Little Simz sings in this yet-to-be-named song.
Needless to say, Simz is certainly already on her way to greatness. But, like many geniuses, she isn’t going to stop searching for her best self, encouraging us to do the same alongside her.
Charlotte Seal can be reached at email@example.com.