THE RED BULLETIN: Lots of big record companies were keen to release your debut album, A Curious Tale Of Trials + Persons, but, in the end, you turned down their offers and did it yourself. Why?
LITTLE SIMZ: The music labels didn’t get it. They treated me like I was young and naïve. They tried to take advantage of me. Not in a creepy way, but I’m too passionate about my music to let someone else handle it if they don’t share my vision.
Why is independence so important to you?
We’re all part of the big system – that’s just how we go through life. Music is my escape from that. So, for me, the most important thing is to have control over my thoughts and the feelings I express in my songs.
Little Simz will be playing at the Roskilde Festival this week. Watch the event live on Red Bull TV!
So, true success can only be found on your own terms?
Definitely! The problem is that sometimes we don’t realise what we want. For instance, if you’re watching TV and you’re seeing the same things over and over again, subconsciously your mind is taking it all in – the way you should look, act, dress – and you start to conform to that. That’s my biggest fear: having a mind that just adapts to whatever I see. I can’t stress enough how important it is to think your thoughts, to wear the things you want to wear, and to go your own way. Everything else is bulls- -t.
Where do you find the self-confidence to say no to the label executives flashing their chequebooks at you?
It’s how my mum raised me. She would say to me, “It’s so easy to say yes, but never be afraid to say no.” If you work hard enough and you’re good at what you do, an opportunity is never the last chance. It’s just a sign that you’re on the right path. Don’t rush into anything.
What does success mean to you personally?
What matters to me is the fact that I can talk about whatever I want without a label executive telling me, “This is what’s happening.” I’m not worried about sales – at the end of the day, this is my first album and I don’t feel pressure to go platinum, because I’m in it for longevity. I’m the only person who gets to put any pressure on me.
Your exceptional flow and rhyme skills have won you praise from hip-hop heavyweights, including Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z. How do you rap so fast?
It’s something that I’ve practised for years and years. It’s important to be quick and clear at the same time, so you can hear literally every word. When I was younger, I’d train my clarity by putting a pen in my mouth when I rapped.
How does that help?
Because you have something that stops you from slurring. That technique helped me with my breathing, too.