Little Simz really does have it all going on. At only 22 years old, the North London MC already has two full length albums under her belt, shining endorsements from the likes of Kendrick Lamar and is fresh off touring the USA supporting RnB legend, Lauren Hill.
It’s only fitting that her music matches her movements, and on ‘Stillness In Wonderland’, it certainly comes close.
Whilst the Kendrick co-sign made it loud and clear that the Compton wordsmith is a big fan of Simz’s material, ‘Stillness In Wonderland’ demonstrates that the love is more than reciprocated. The album’s sound and structure could easily be likened to Kendrick’s 2015 masterpiece, ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’.
Wonderland’s stellar production boasts heavy free jazz influences, intertwined with Hip Hop, RnB and Grime. This results in an atmospheric, trippy instrumental section, acting as a base for Simz’s narrative of her journey down the rabbit hole.
Opener ‘LMPD’ follows suit with an ominous bass line, scattered guitar licks and wobbling synths; whilst Simz and guest MC Chronixx trade off lyrics dealing with the pressures of an unprecedented elevation through the music industry. This sets the tone, as we quickly learn that wonderland is the dream like state of the industry Simz has found herself in, riddled with twists and turns.
‘Doorways + Trust Issues’ lets a laid back west-coast style opening transition into jaunty trap rhythms, whilst Simz lifts lyrics from Drake’s insecurity anthem ‘Trust Issues’ and questions her own integrity – “When was it about the stuntin when was it about your pay?”. Poppy number ‘Shotgun’, consists of playfully standoffish lyrics and a sunshine drenched hook sung by The Internet’s Syd – acting as the perfect soundtrack to your next summer road trip.
Simz has clearly put a lot of thought into her collaborators. For such an introspective album, the guest features lend themselves well; adding new dimensions and complimenting Simz’s story. One of the highlights is King of Hearts. A classic chest beating display of lyrical arrogance, with a dark pulsating beat and tense horn section providing the perfect foundation for scorching guest verses from Chip and Ghetts.
The record meanders through various interludes that keep the theme flowing, as the sound of the tracks twist and turn. ‘Zone 3’ and ‘One in Rotation + Wide Awake’ both sound like they could have been taken from a 90’s west-coast mixtape. Whilst numbers such as ‘Bad to the Bone’ featuring Bibi Bourelly are rather underwhelming, reminding us that Simz is smart to stay away from the 808s and minor tones of generic trap.
As musically interesting as the record is, it sometimes sounds cluttered and too ‘vibe’ heavy, often at the expense of the songs.
However Simz brings it all back together on closer No More Wonderland, with a down temp beat laced with tasteful saxophone and guitar parts before spitting –“Real shit’s happening and my people need me, and therefore, I’m out”. Que mic drop.
Stillness in Wonderland is out now via Age 101