Little Simz: ‘You are in the presence of greatness. I don’t say that with arrogance, I say it with confidence’

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Little Simz: ‘You are in the presence of greatness. I don’t say that with arrogance, I say it with confidence’

Little Simz
Words by Staff Writer

Little Simz is one of the most technically skilled rappers in hip hop. She knows it and so does everyone else.

Musicians – in particular savvy hip-hop artists – have long toyed with the inherent contrast between the superego and the ego. They know that coming on stage full of bravado and making god-like claims purely serves to whip the crowd into even more of a frenzy when they inevitably break character, tears in their eyes and palms to chest, and tell the crowd how far they’ve come.

MCA really is a fantastic concert venue, especially in the colder winter months. We were lucky enough to witness Little Simz and Yeah Yeah Yeahs on consecutive days at the prestigious arena and the giant backdrop, lighting displays and acoustics around the venue – not to mention the visibility from the seated aspects – helped to put both experiences among our best concerts of the year. Special mention also goes to MCA’s in-house restaurant Mr Miyagi – it’s not often you can praise a concert venue’s food with such adulation, but it’s also not often a venue can boast one of Melbourne’s most renowned Japanese purveyors.

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Few artists explore this dichotomy as often, and as clearly, as Little Simz. Her recorded output – she’s been delving into her soul for six full-length albums now – has always covered these contradictions in as straightforward manner as possible, eschewing dense metaphors and pointless wordplay for powerful, comprehendable verses. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, the album most responsible for graduating her from 800-capacity Corner Hotel to 7,500-capacity MCA, has no shortage of ruminations on this concept.

Then there are her media appearances, which are just as forthright. She’s made a habit of speaking honestly about her talent, which has been indisputable since the very beginning – she’s been rapping since nine years old and was co-signed by Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole before she’d released her first record.

Finally, there’s the stage persona. She’s exceptionally comfortable commanding a stadium audience alone – she did so last night for roughly half the show, and even when she brought on two guitarists, they played a relatively minor role (she soon grabbed a guitar herself before upping the ante on keys, as if to say, ‘I don’t need them for this, either’). She had no set design, no elaborate costumes, no backing vocals or dancers – just Simz and a giant illuminated screen, which was mostly kept to repetitive black and white silhouettes.

Most artists struggle to retain a crowd’s energy throughout an entire set, despite props and design galore. Simz had one of the most ecstatic crowds we’ve seen this year firmly in the palm of her hand without assistance. Her confidence is rooted in ability: reggae, autotune, grime, jazz, bounces and rocks in a shirt and tie. Everything she does, she does well, anchored by this clipped London accent that spits venom and uplifting refrains with near-equal sincerity.

Inevitably, the character broke. She mentioned her first show in Richmond, the fact her mum was in the audience, how hard she’d had to work to get here. By that point, it didn’t matter. There was a palpable sense in the audience that we were witnessing a future legend in the peak of her powers. That we were, in fact, in the presence of greatness.

Keep up with Little Simz here. Check out what else is coming up at MCA here.