Review: Little Simz's Album, "Stillness In Wonderland"
Dealing With the Pressures of Fame on "Stillness In Wonderland"
Released in conjunction with a comic book and short film of the same name (see below), London rapper Little Simz’s sophomore album, 'Stillness In Wonderland’ contains many moments of rich, layered music production. The best examples sound as if real, meticulous attention has been put into them.
'Stillness In Wonderland’ deals with the pressures of fame, and being in the spotlight. Although the project revolves around an elaborate Alice In Wonderland spin-off motif, it isn’t needed to enjoy the record on a superficial level. Little Simz’s rap presence is concrete throughout ‘Stillness In Wonderland’. The 22-year-old comes across serious and focused, as if she’s continuously in deep concentration. While Simz’s lyrical ability is never in doubt, the spectrum of emotions she can genuinely communicate feels limited on this record.
Unfazed Within the Diverse Wonderland Experience
Simz isn't the industry's most demonstrative hip-hop personality. This becomes noticeable within the wandering, whimsical narrative of ‘Stillness In Wonderland’. Little Simz is far from a lazy rapper, still, her performances can get slightly mechanical, and this has a draining effect on the record’s colour and excitement.
Occasionally, the LP’s ideas are presented in way that makes them sound indistinguishable from one another. It’s easy to imagine less attentive, casual listeners growing indifferent to ’Stillness In Wonderland’ as it plays out. Simz seems generally unfazed dissecting her own character flaws on ‘Doorways + Trust Issues’, and probing race matters on ‘LMPD’ (which features Jamaican reggae artist Chronixx).
While this steady stance quickly and admirably enhances the the album’s more aggressive, direct moments, it hampers her ability to connect listeners to the full range of diverse concepts that fuel the Wonderland experience. The album’s higher than average number of guest artists remedy this issue to some extent, and are very much welcome on ’Stillness In Wonderland’.
Simz’s Space Age associates Tilla, Josh Arcé and Chuck20 make an appearance on the tune ‘Zone 3’. Their collective presence overhauls ‘Zone 3’, and introduces an unpredictability that Simz’ doesn’t easily convey on her own.
Fighting the World's Injustice with Spirituality
Addressing racism in society, ‘LMPD’ is an outspoken album opener. ‘LMPD’ is drizzled in loose guitar sounds and chilled, loungey touches. In contrast to its pointed subject matter, the track’s slow and steady instrumental unfurls spontaneously.
Namechecking Rosa Parks and the Black Lives Matter movement, reggae artist Chronixx observes today’s racial tensions and dwells on the idea that Martin Luther King’s soul is waiting somewhere for its long-held peaceful vision to come into fruition. After Chronixx suggests that active spirituality is needed to fight injustice in the world, Simz is heard chanting, “The people that are meant to be protecting us are killing us”.
Little Simz Looks for Suitors on "Shotgun"
Crammed with thoughtful and engulfing instrumental elements, the layered, lush backdrop of ‘One In Rotation + Wide Awake’ stands out. Singing about his wish to attain music industry success and leave a legacy behind, the song features LA singer/songwriter and engineer SiR on its hooks. Squeezing the most from it’s incredibly zoned out, transportive vibe, ‘One In Rotation + Wide Awake’ cosmically rebuilds itself towards its climax.
Led by a breezy, light mood, LA artist, producer and DJ Syd The Kid makes an appearance on ’Shotgun’ - Syd’s wispy singing vocals memorably enhance the track. Letting potential suitors know how she like to be treated, Simz’ spends ‘Shotgun’ rapping about her desire to find someone decent to experience life with.
UK Rappers Chip and Ghetts Co-Star on "King Of Hearts"
’Picture Perfect’ is a blast. The tune’s infectious instrumental exploits a brisk momentum, and depicts Simz having a good time, despite her survivalist concerns. Numerous, unhinged, sprite horn touches litter the tune and dance around Simz’ commanding wordplay.
Co-starring London rappers Chip and Ghetts, ‘King of Hearts’ is a highlight. Despite it’s aggressive front, ‘King of Hearts’ contains zero wasted energy - there’s no aimless chest-puffing here. After an eased and casual sounding Chip opens the tune, Ghetts’ later verse is more nightmarish and kaleidoscopic. Foreboding grime elements stalk the track’s background as a determined Simz spits about destroying traitors.
Simz and Bibi Bourelly Unite for the Sassy "Bad To The Bone"
Celebrating how cooly they’re able manoeuvre their romantic relationships, Little Simz and German-born, LA based singer/songwriter Bibi Bourelly flaunt their in-demand status on grower ‘Bad To The Bone’. Side by side, the ladies attempt to put their own sassy stamp on the minimal, dazed, absorbing hazy trap sound that’s so unstoppably popular at the moment.
Simz’s singing on ‘Low Tides’ can be a little distracting - it offsets the tune’s achingly introspective presentation. That aside, the cut’s soothing, inviting textures and sublime bass tones feel organic. Enriched by melancholy horns, album finale ‘No More Wonderland’ is restfully reflective. The cut’s mellow instrumental gently supports Simz’s assured rap delivery.