12 October Milan 2019, Santeria
Edited by Francesca Lotti
Out there the usual: columns of smoke that rise from as many small groups growing thicker around the entrance, little beer in the hand and a buzz in the background near the cash register, which can be summed up in a collective disappointment for all those (many) who hoped to buy more ticket. There is sold-out for the first concert of Little Simz in Milan.
But, before entering the room, two steps back: a couple of years ago, just back in Milan between Master's questions and maddening internship research periodically interrupted by video of kittens and anonymous YouTube YouTube lo-fi playlist, I I find myself combing through countless Tiny Desk Concerts (the format of NPR music in which artists alternate with live around a sort of office location). Among these, there is a girl with a hat, jeans and a blue shirt who plays some pieces with an uncertainty, at times, that shines through. Not that of someone who thinks he is not worth enough, no, maybe more that feeling of someone who knows he doesn't want to waste even a shred of his talent.
That girl is called Simbiatu, name of art: Little Simz. Comes from north London and now has three records, published on its own independent label. The breakthrough album came a few months ago: GRAY Area (prod.Inflo), a mixture of sounds that goes beyond the grime, intense and eclectic yet perfectly amalgamated by that voice which became sure, both on pieces that veer towards trip-hop like Venom and on those of emotional relaxation like Selfish ft. Cleo Sol.
Some time and a few releases later, therefore, I find myself in a crowded room on the southern outskirts of Milan, surrounded by a public in an anxiously varied expectation: a couple of 16-year-old couples overtake me in the 90s, I see several exponents a little farther on of the Milanese music industry, old glories of the Italian rap, agitated girls who are waving near the pit at every lighting variation and 40 year olds curious on the sidelines.
Then, here: on the stage the two musicians go up, pointing to the first notes of Boss, manifesto of the new Little, or perhaps simply of a mature artist: it is still her, dressed as a good girl with jeans, glasses and white Fred Perry, but with a decidedly new determination. The lines of the piece chosen programmatically as an opening are shouted by a megaphone as if to say: Little Simz is here, bitches.
Excited for her first concert in Milan, Simz is delicately honest in presenting all her songs, both those taken from the less recent discography and those from GRAY Area. Among these is Therapy, intimate story of his relationship with the therapy, intimate but not for this less aggressive, rather charged with the pride of those who are grateful for all the past experiences that make us what we are.
A brief back in time follows with God Bless Mary, accompanied by an exhortation to sing addressed to the public.
It is a few notes later – more precisely on those of Wounds – that can proudly say: "finally I get paid for this shit!", Charging itself even more in view of another piece, during which the stage is immersed in a dense luminous fog with green hues: it is Venom, preceded by a "Now I am gonna rap of course but when the shit drops u r loose skirt it".
Between one song and another, he pauses to sign a copy of his first album and give it to a lucky of the first row and for some instrumental solos, just before retrieving another important fragment of his past, Mornings, one of those who – he says – helped her find herself.
A leap forward and here we are again GRAY Area for the last tracks of the live, first of all the splendid Selfish, followed by 101 FM which carries all the Santeria directly to the north London suburb of Little Simz.
On Flowers (ft. Michael Kiwanuka), he lets himself go to a much appreciated dedication to all the great musicians who inspired her, from Amy to Biggie, from Kurt Cobain to 2Pac. Follows a brief exit (fake) from the stage in Italian style, before reappearing gloriously with offense – a red-light flow that perfectly closes a high-level concert.
With an hour and a little more than live, Little Simz succeeds in bringing to the stage (and translating it perfectly) that eclecticism of which his lyrics are loaded as well as that sound carpet that accompanies them, or Inflo's productions, overwhelming the audience from the first to the last row and making us go out with that desire to say as soon as possible: I was there.