The rapper dazzles on the Parklife stage as she performs tracks from her Mercury Prize-winning album
“Parklife, right now I need you to understand that you’re witnessing greatness,” Little Simz tells us, impossibly cool in the heat behind her Prada sunglasses. “And I don’t say that with arrogance – I say that with confidence.”
The London rapper released her fifth album in December of last year. Over the last eight years, she’s gone from straight-talking, alternative-sounding independent rapper to a creative force, a critical darling, and the winner of the Mercury Prize for Album Of The Year with Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. Such a statement from her is earned.
Her hour set sees Simz touring us through her mind, combining hip hop and grime with gospel, blues and jazz. There are proud trumpets, dazzling strings, electric guitars – one of them played by Simz herself in ‘Selfish’. It’s a lot to take in, and it would be tempting to spend the hour leaning in to catch every lyric. But Simz makes it clear that our main priority is to celebrate – “Imagine that I’m your friend from London and I’ve come down to Manchester and you’re gonna show me a good time,” she asks. We jump our way through tracks about Simz’s introversion, her political anxieties, her relationships, her calls to action.
Simz’s rap is thoughtful, eloquent and emotive. She delivers an explosive message to an absent father figure in ‘I Love You, I Hate You’. She makes a case for female leadership in ‘Venom’ and asks big questions of a troubled world in ‘Introvert’. The last sees her transition from dancing across the stage to delivering verses almost like spoken word, still and immersed onstage. These shifts in energy are frequent – Simz takes a moment, wherever she needs one, to take it all in. There’s never any risk of losing her crowd. They’re with her.
“Can I do one more?” she asks us. “Okay, one for the girls, then.” She closes out with ‘Woman’, her collaboration with Cleo Sol that sees her pay tribute to woman of all backgrounds and ethnicities. When she exits the stage with a small smile, there’s a genuine sense of loss.