Little Simz, real name Simbi Ajikawo, returned to the Roundhouse Rising show, having performed a headline set in 2014. This year, she headlined and curated a varied line-up of emerging talent. An art installation accompanied the show, with the Wonderland theme in focus throughout. An animation introduced her performance, with a cartoon Little Simz asking Cheshire “Why am I here?” His response: “Simply, you’re here to fuck up the balance”.
Ajikawo’s energy is on full pelt from the start. The set list is based heavily off her latest LP, Stillness in Wonderland. The tracks take on a new optimistic life with the live band. On the album, the vibe is hazy – it seems the wonderland is an escape Simz uses to cope with her struggles. We’re invited along to follow her in her journey though the rabbit hole, and the experience is immersive. Even when the lyrics are dark, her dynamism onstage means the mood is liberating rather than wallowing. On Trust Issues, she raps Nobody is an angel these days/if you disagree please speak up please say. It is clear Little Simz is at her most comfortable rapping and singing, and she commands the stage effortlessly. Between tracks, the atmosphere falters slightly – there is little introduction to each song and the fact that this is her biggest show to date starts to show. Despite her nerves, she never ceases to be lively and charming.
A highlight of the show is God Bless Mary, a song dedicated to her neighbour for never complaining about the loud music next door. The audience gains perspective: Simbi is only 22 and was working from her home not long ago. Despite her success and critical acclaim worldwide, Little Simz has remained defiantly independent and true to herself. Kendrick Lamar said she “might be the illest doing it right now”. Her style is more hip-hop than grime, but she is no stranger to the scene, having worked with an impressive set of artists on the album. Ghetts and Chip join her onstage for an electric performance of King of Hearts, and for the finale of the show she is joined by Stormzy and Kano for Dead Body.