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feb SOUNDTRACK: LITTLE SIMZ-Tiny Desk Concert #599 (February 21, 2017).

simzI had never heard of Little Simz until I saw this Tiny Desk Concert.  Then a few nights later I was in Union Transfer and saw that she would be playing there in a few weeks.  Serendipity.  Although I still wasn’t going to go see her.

Simbi Ajikawo, who records and performs as Little Simz, first gained widespread recognition with the release of her debut album, A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons back in 2015. The British lyricist has been compared to the likes of Lauryn Hill for her self-reflective wordplay that shies away from the often braggadocios nature of mainstream rap music.

While on her first album Simz opted to tell stories that spoke of her childhood experiences (and the insight gained from them), on her most recent release, Stillness in Wonderland, she expands this notion of self-exploration by creating a world that pays ode to the childhood classic Alice in Wonderland. Much like Alice, Simz’s newfound success has taken her on a journey that’s leading her to discover a whole new world.

Accompanied by three members from the Brooklyn-based R&B group known as Phony Ppl [Matt Byas (drums); Omar Grant (bass) and Aja Grant (keys)], Simz performed a set of three songs off of Stillness in Wonderland.

Simz has a very thick British accent while rapping.  On the first song, “Poison Ivy,” she plays guitars and has good flow.  But I felt that the sung chorus were kind of flat.

She says that “No More Wonderland” is about being involved in the business and how being on the road is not what she thought it would be like.  Usually t his is a bad sign for a song, but she does some interesting things lyrically, all staying near the Alice in Wonderland theme.  She tells us the hooks pretty easy so join in.  And it is easy but it’s once again, rather understated.  But I do really like the bass sound.

I didn’t realize that the band wasn’t her band (they do a great job of playing her songs).  Before the final song, “Picture Perfect,” she tells them all that she really likes their hoodies (which have her album cover on them).  They laugh and say they’re very nice, and surprisingly affordable.  She tells a little more about the concept of the album.  This song is when she’s having the most fun and “it’s lit.”  I love the moment where everything stops and they go “grrrrrrrroooo.”

The three songs are a bit slow for me, but by thee nd she did win me over.  I do wonder what her show is like when it’s not Tiny.

[READ: January 19, 2017] “Comeback City”

This is an excerpt from a novel by Mackey.  The excerpt is quite short, so I actually found the description of the novel to be somewhat more interesting.  This excerpt comes from Late Arcade, the fifth installment in From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, a novel that follows the activities of a jazz group.

So this excerpt covers their arrival into Detroit.  It was their first time in the City and the it covers their thoughts about the city itself.   But the narrator “quickly found our expectations to see and say something about Detroit tan irritant, any summing-up or desire to sum up an affront.”

He says things cry out for comment or ridicule (like the immutability of the General Motors Building in contrast to the auto industry’s recent troubles.

But he says, and the band agrees,  that the area by the Detroit Institute of Arts is beautiful. (more…)

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