From the opening salvo of Persons, “They told her women cannot call themselves kings / They told her fame isn’t made for everyone.” A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons by Little Simz is a uniformly brash and bold piece of work. Whilst this technically constitutes a debut, an extensive backlog of mixtapes prior has given us some sense of what to expect from the Islington-born rapper, and despite the fact the album is therein less startling than it could be, it is still an engrossing, confident piece, which pulls no punches in its confessional content.
All this wouldn’t work however, if Little Simz weren’t one of the most adept rap technicians I’ve heard in recent memory. Her flexible tone and flow will inevitably be compared to Lauryn Hill due to her sex or even Kate Tempest due to her inflection, yet Simz’s paradigmatic and seamless moves between hyper-aggression and introspection remind me far more of Kendrick Lamar, especially his work in Section.80. The presence of her sung vocals however derange making a total parallel to Lamar, with her effortless and atmospheric timbre here proving to be a highly effective sleight of hand in her arsenal. What makes Little Simz so highly exciting is that one can spend a paragraph attempting to make half-baked “she sounds like” comments without really getting anywhere - there is nothing like her and her unique hybrid works on the scene at the moment.
It’s difficult for any hip-hop fan not to become enamoured by her mesmerising delivery, and whilst I certainly was, there are two significant gripes that stop this from being a momentous debut effort. Whilst the minimal and desolate instrumentation and an aversion to the poetic in the lyrics are not necessarily always problems, this lack of craft means the album often risks sounding workman-like and, paradoxically, considering the shifting flow, monotonous. I lost count of what track I was on, as its often difficult to define character between standalone numbers - which is exacerbated by the aforementioned stripped back beats and lack of memorable lyrics. Little Simz’s confessions in this highly biographic work are, I think, meant to come across as relentless, but I wonder whether it would have been better to colour the individual tracks more?
Nevertheless, the potential and aptitude displayed in A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons is astronomic. There is something incredibly exciting in Little Simz – you have to keep an eye on this one.