Little Simz has joined the illustrious list of musicians who have won the Mercury Prize after being named the 31st winner of the highly coveted award. The 28-year-old rapper from London won the £25,000 prize for her fourth album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert.
The award tops off an incredibly successful year for Simz - this is everything you need to know about the London rapper’s career and her rise to fame.
Who is Little Simz?
Simbiatu Abisola Abiola Aijkawo, better known by her stage name of Little Simz, was born on 23 February 1994 in Islington, London. She is a rapper, singer and actress, and is best known for her most recent album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert which has received critical acclaim.
Simz developed an interest in hip-hop music at seven years old and has described one of her early childhood role models as Missy Elliot. Elliot is best known for songs such as Work It and Get Ur Freak On.
In an interview with Redbull, Simz talked about some of her early influences and spoke specifically about Missy Elliot, saying: “I used to dance at that time, so I wanted to be in her videos and from that point on, I just fell in love with hip-hop.”
As Simz grew to develop her passion for hip-hop, she also began to take an interest in other stars such as Lauryn Hill, Tupac, Nas and Jay Z. The London born rapper has praised the influence of her local youth club in helping her to evolve as an artist and, at the age of nine, she would freestyle there with her friends.
Simz actually first started out as an actor, and her first role came in the BBC children’s series Spirit Warrior which was originally broadcast back in 2010. She was later given the role of Meleka in the E4 comedy drama Youngers, which aired from 2013 until 2014.
The 28-year old launched her career as a rapper in 2010, with her first mixtape Stratosphere released that year. Over the next four years, she released four more mixtapes and four EPS. Her 2014 EP Black Canvas caught the attention of her childhood hero Jay Z and he shared the album on his life+times website.
Little Simz released her first album A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons in 2015. The album was well received and showcased her unique autobiographical approach to songwriting which has become a common theme throughout her career.
Since releasing her first album, Little Simz has gradually been climbing the ranks in the world of hip-hop and building a reputation for herself. Her second album, Stillness in Wonderland, was released in 2016.
It was her third album, Grey Area, that cemented her status as a rising star and earnt Simz a nomination for the 2019 Mercury Prize, which was ultimately won by Dave for his debut album Psychodrama.
However it didn’t take long for the rapper to claim the prize as her own after bagging the Mercury Prize in 2022 following the release of her fourth studio album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. The album has achieved critical acclaim from a number of music critics, with Rachel Aroesti from the Guardian giving the album a four star review. She described it as “intensively creative” and an album which felt “totally alive”.
How has Little Simz reacted to winning the 2022 Mercury Prize?
Little Simz won the 2022 Mercury Prize at the awards ceremony on Tuesday 18 October. Speaking about her achievement Little Simz said that she was “very overwhelmed and grateful” to receive the honour.
In her speech, she thanked her family, friends and loved ones as well as her team and fans.
“I want to say thank you to my brother and close collaborator Inflo… he’s known me since I was so young, he’s stuck by me, we created this album together,” Simz said.
The rapper also paid tribute to her fellow nominees, saying: “I want to big up all the other nominees tonight, all the other albums, from Joy [Crookes], to Kojey [Radical], Self Esteem, Wet Leg, all you guys are incredible.
“We all made incredible albums, we all changed people’s lives with our music and that’s the most important thing.”
Simz adds the Mercury Prize to her plethora of awards which include best new artist at the Brit Awards earlier this year, two Ivor Novello awards for best album in 2020 for Grey Area and best contemporary song for I Love You, I Hate You in 2022.
Last year, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert was also named BBC Radio 6 Music’s album of the year. The artist made her Glastonbury debut on the West Holts Stage in 2016 and performed again on the same stage this year.
Which character did Little Simz play in Top Boy?
Since 2019, Simz has featured as a recurring character in the British crime series Top Boy where she plays the role of Shelley. The show originally aired from 2011 until 2013 but was revived in 2019 by Canadian rapper Drake.
Chatting to the Guardian in 2019 about how she got involved in the show, Simz said: “The link came from Kano [the rapper who plays Sully in Top Boy]. They were gearing up for this season and I guess Kano put in a good word for me. I had three auditions. The first time I walked out thinking, “Ah, I don’t think it’s mine”, but then I got a recall.”
She explained that she was a “huge fan” of the first two seasons, and that she had “witnessed [a version of the show] first hand” having grown up near where the series is set.
“Even the character I’m playing. I know this person in real life. It’s very close to home,” she said.
What songs are on Sometimes I Might Be Introvert?
The tracklist for the Mercury Prize 2022 winning album goes as follows:
- Woman ft. Cleo Sol
- To Worlds Apart
- I Love You, I Hate You
- Little Q Pt 1 (interlude)
- Little Q Pt 2
- Gems (interlude)
- Standing Ovation
- I See You
- The Rapper That Came to Tea (interlude)
- Rollin Stone
- Protect My Energy
- Never Make Promises (interlude)
- Point and Kill ft Obongjayar
- Fear No Man
- The Garden (interlude)
- How Did You Get Here
- Miss Understood