Why you should care

Because art is not one-size-fits-all.

Used to be, if a person wanted to make music professionally, they needed to sign a record deal. The average singer-songwriter didn’t have deep enough pockets to cover recording, manufacturing and marketing, so a record label would step in and lend a hand. However, for many artists that meant making certain creative concessions in order to fit neatly into a label’s proven formula for success.

But that was then.

These days, it’s possible to make and market one’s music without ever putting pen to paper with a record label. Finding success as an independent musician isn’t easy, but it does come with an invaluable bonus: creative freedom. Artists no longer have to either conform to a label’s expectations or fade into obscurity. They can use the available tools to carve their own way, which is exactly what North London rapper Little Simz has done.

She was not going to trade her hats for skirts or sing more hooks because that’s what a label thought was best.

Little Simz, born Simbi Ajikawo, knew she wanted to rap when she was 9 years old. At 15, she began releasing self-recorded mixtapes. Her fourth mixtape, 2013’s Blank Canvas, premiered on Jay-Z’s Life+Times blog when she was just 19. Since then, she’s toured with ScHoolboy Q, earned high-profile fans like Andre 3000, J.Cole and Kendrick Lamar and landed on Forbes’s inaugural “30 Under 30 Europe” list.

Last year saw the arrival of Simz’s debut full-length, A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons. The album, released on her own Age 101 label in September, examines fame and its effects from multiple perspectives. Simz has a knack for flickering between contemplative and fierce, and throughout the effort she is consistently compelling, offering a carefully considered response to her quickening ascent and a clear example of the traits that have earned her a global following: confessional lyrics, a confident, rhythmic flow and an arresting presence.

In an interview with Fader, Simz revealed that she’d met with nearly every label in the U.K., but that none of them “got it.” She explained that she was not going to trade her hats for skirts or sing more hooks because that’s what a label thought was best. And that is what’s so exciting. If artists like Little Simz don’t have to mimic an archetype to find success, the result is a musical landscape that is more diverse, interesting and real.

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