“Mentally enslaved / Mentally deranged / Mental hasn’t changed,” British emcee Little Simz raps on “LMPD,” the first cut off of her new project Stillness in Wonderland.
It’s a gripping way to enter into the new project, its title a nod to Lewis Carroll’s 19th-century novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; and fittingly, Simz’s new offering meanders between realities and dreams, much like Alice.
Typically, Simz subscribes to the Lil Wayne and Gucci Mane method of flooding listeners with new material: Over the last three years, she’s dropped nine projects. But it’s been 14 months since Simz’s last release—and debut album—A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons. In the description for Stillness in Wonderland, she provides a lengthy explanation about her absence and what she’s learned since her debut LP; while A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons was an exploration of her new stardom, Stillness in Wonderland is a more in-depth study of her narrative, a fearless, reality-soaked dreamland.
Simz balances the two almost seamlessly, weaving more sobering songs like “LMPD” with brighter, sunnier tracks like “Picture Perfect,” and more tender moments with “Poison Ivy.” Indeed, her life’s been a trip since she released her debut: She toured with Lauryn Hill and Nas this year, and became the first British rapper to be listed on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list. And she did all this as an independent and unsigned musician.
Like many of her UK grime and rap counterparts, Simz has built up a solid buzz in the U.S.; still, it’s been difficult for many British artists to truly break into the States on the same scale as American artists.
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With Stillness in Wonderland, Simz has created a cohesive project that might be more palatable to Americans: She wraps the grittiness of her delivery in a delicate and vividly warm sound, making sure to pair musicians that are currently lauded on this side of the pond—Syd, Bibi Bourelly, WondaGurl—with British artists like Tilla, Chip + Ghetts and Loner Muaka.
In doing so, she allows both U.S. and UK listeners to find familiarity in her music, under the guise of the globally favored story Alice in Wonderland.
By Tara Mahadevan. Follow her on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Instagram