The opening jitters of Little Simz’ “might bang, might not” moved me. Those early seconds felt like a picture of quarantine, of sitting idle out of force and straining against the quiet. As the song progresses, Simz’ delivery becomes breathless. Her rapping is lively, inspired, and in direct contrast to how I—and the rest of the world—have been feeling.
This juxtaposition reminded me of something my girlfriend said during our first week of quarantine: “This isn’t a vacation.”
She made this remark in passing, going to the kitchen to bake the first of several isolation goodies. And yet, I think on it often, over a month removed from the statement. I think of how people have been trying to cope with the stillness, by either avoiding productivity or turning quarantine into a productivity contest.
On her new EP, Drop 6, Little Simz battles stillness. She says so herself in a statement attached to the EP:
“I’m a workaholic. Always have been, probably always will be. Practicing stillness is a challenge. I’m also a creature of habit. If you know me, you know my comfort lies in my red and black scarf around my head, my hot water bottle, a sofa, and a blanket. I’m content. I think about how this time in isolation has impacted my mental health and has brought to light how much I suppress things that I feel super intensely. I hate crying. I feel weak when I cry. I’ve cried a lot over the past month. Feeling over and underwhelmed somehow.”
Reading Simz’ full statement, there’s no real separation between her words and my emotional experience in lockdown. All the memes and articles about panic attacks and restlessness are true.
Living through a historic moment of this gravity presents immeasurable pressure. Knowing Simz created Drop 6 while in lockdown gives great context to the work. It makes it feel a lot more urgent and resonant. At least, for me, for someone struggling to keep up with the pace of their thoughts during these harrowing times, hearing Simz spaz on a song made on the back of great emotional vexation feels somehow cathartic.
Even her titles are cathartic. Look at the second track, “one life, might live.” The “might” is so crucial. Life feels more fragile than ever for so many people—and that’s to say nothing of the way life already feels naturally fragile for marginalized folx.
“You can see my scars,” Simz chants to begin “one life, might live.” Listening to the song and reading her statement, reading of her tears and the weight of lockdown on her mental, we cannot help but see Simz as a mirror into our broken world.
Everything, for me, hinges on the idea of stillness, and how there is a newfound silence permeating our world. The streets are emptier than ever; the shelves are empty. I am reminded of my mother’s tales of her Soviet upbringing, and how the stores were without and the world was existing and a trapping grayscale. These times are suffocating.
The electronic blitz of Drop 6 feels like the fresh air we can’t get. The bobs and ends of “you should call mum” leave you with a smirk on your face. How nice it is to feel something other than dread. “We all in the same boat / Keep your head up, stay afloat,” Simz raps on the song. It’s a real kindness for her to share this message because the most obvious of truths feel the most distant.
Like many of us, I have increased the intensity of my therapy sessions during lockdown. They’ve all become partly-centered on coping with COVID-19, and the first significant breakthrough I had came when my doctor told me: “This will end.”
It seems so simple, but the idea of a finish line has helped me muscle through each dragging day. The dregs of my emotions pool, and I wash them away with this reminder.
Reading Simz’ statement, I realize Drop 6 is that very same reminder come to musical life. “I started working on an EP early April, with a plan to finish it by the end of the month,” she wrote. “Around mid-April, I got disheartened and started getting in my own way. That self-doubt shit again.”
Of course, she’s speaking to her creative process, but is this not how we all feel when we see the news? Yet, Drop 6 is here. We make it to the finish line.
The existence of Drop 6 is light. Knowing Simz struggled with herself and yet still rose to produce something so effective and affecting acts as a beacon for so many of us struggling parallel to her.
Simz knows this well; she expresses as much in the close of her EP statement:
“After serious procrastination I decided to stop being a lil bitch and cry baby and knuckle down on the EP. I gassed myself up, There’s no one else here, I’m alone, I had to. It started to feel good. I started to get really excited, wheeling myself up, spudding myself. I had to. Then I completed it. and when? End of the month just as I’d set out too [sic]. Things come full circle in the end don’t they? The middle feels like growing pains, self-doubt is a bitch and the only way out is through. Thank you for being the lights that you are. You’re all needed, valued, appreciated, and loved. Not just by me of course and I am sure I can speak on behalf of everyone you hold dear in your lives close to you. This is a turbulent time but we don’t fold. We don’t come from that. We will always be fine.”
Listening to Drop 6, feeling Simz’ pain, and watching her overcome is exactly what we needed during this worldwide quarantine. These times are rattling, painful. Every day, we are forced to come up with new words for old emotions, for unprecedented emotions, too.
I am so very tired of trying to describe how I feel during lockdown; how I feel watching people lose their jobs, homes, and lives. I am so incredibly tired of working and trying to make things work as if nothing is happening. But, too, I am so very thankful for music. For Little Simz’ seeing me during a low, and bringing me high with five songs borne of our cultural moment and meant to tide us over.
She says it herself: “We will always be fine.” We will battle this stillness. We will win.