There can be no doubt as to who is the most valuable player in UK Hip Hop right now. After her 2013 breakthrough mixtape, Blank Canvas, established her as a threat to all her peers, the last 18 months have confirmed how much of a dangerously talented artist she is, culminating in the release of her debut studio album, A Curious Tale Of Trials + Persons. ‘She’, of course, is none other than Little Simz.
Simz has stated that the A Curious Tale Of Trials + Persons is a “conceptual” album, and the main topic of discussion throughout the project is based around the idea of fame and how that can affect not only a person, but also the people around them. This concept is derived from the realisation that her own life is “heading in that direction” due to her recent rapid rise.
Simz starts the story with a mantra-like introduction on, ‘Persons’, which incorporates her famous question of “How you feeling?”, among other quotable lyrics, as she assures listeners that she’s still the person. This is followed by one of the album’s highlights, ‘Wings’, which also acted as the first single from the project. The soulful instrumentation – thanks to IAmNobodi – is supplemented by beautiful background vocals and powerfully delivered verses from Simz. The album’s strong opening continues on ‘The Lights’, as Simz examines the concept of fame and how being famous can negatively affect you and your circumstances. Each of the three verses speaks on a different perspective and their individual situations, skilfully painting the picture for the audience.
The tale resumes with ‘Tainted’, as the introspective thoughts and feelings of the character in question are shared. The sympathy for the characters omitted from the previous track is quickly forgotten as Simz voices the arrogant, superficial twist on fame and perceived success. This is one of the more familiar angles of fame illustrated on the album and it is performed impressively.
Despite Simz articulating the opinions of various different characters during the project, there are still instances where she speaks from her own experience. An example of which can be found on ‘God Bless Mary’, where she expresses disturbing her neighbour due to recording the majority of her early work at her home, with the modest nature of the subject further endearing Little Simz to listeners.
The second single from A Curious Tale Of Trials + Persons was ‘Dead Body’, which is probably the one song on the album that is most like her signature sound. This is mostly due to the aggressive flow Simz adopts, as well as the production being credited to Prezident Jeff (and Deezy), who had a hand in a selection of her previous work, such as; ‘Is This Freedom?’, ‘Don’t Ruin It’ & ‘Intervention’, from her Age 101 Ep series.
Those who thought Little Simz would simply continue making “bangers” are likely to be astonished by her ability to create a conceptual body of work, while still keeping her original flavour that has appeased her fan base up to this point. She experiments with different production styles in addition to including more singing than we are used to hearing from this rapper, as she attempts to demonstrate her full repertoire as an artist. With A Curious Tale Of Trials + Persons, UK Hip Hop’s MVP has made a strong case to be considered for that title in years to come.