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Little Simz delivered the most impressive performance of Northside 2023 in a tour de force of her artistry

Af August Isidor Jørgensen – Delfinens musikanmelder

On the sunlit second day of the 2023 Northside Festival last Friday, I headed down to Eskelunden after a grueling three days of writing what had amounted to an ultimately lackluster 9-page exam. I was sleep-deprived, running on the fumes of a pot of coffee from the night before, and emotionally downtrodden. I was in need of a musical pick-me-up. When I entered the festival grounds at a quarter to four, I was faced with a heartbreaking decision between two of the festival’s best bookings. Experimental rapper and producer Jpegmafia was playing at the smaller, roof-covered Nova stage, an experience I knew would undoubtedly entail a sweaty, riotous crowd moshing uncontrollably from beginning to end, an expectation not far from the experience my friends who attended could recount. The tale, which involved getting elbowed in the back of the head by a 6-foot-3 woman and a disastrous attempt at calming the rowdy crowd by a festival employee, was not really the most appealing affair to someone in my current mental state. Playing on the comparatively bigger Echo stage was UK rapper Little Simz, who, while having been around throughout a lot of the 2010s, really made a splash in 2019 with the release of her album Grey Area, sporting an ambitious mix of braggadocious bangers like the down and dirty “Offence” and contrariwise introspective soulful cuts like the beautiful “Flowers”.

Opting for Little Simz I reached the crowd just in time for her entrance. Wearing what I would describe as the dress-down Friday outfit of one of the Men in Black, complete with thick-rimmed sunglasses, Simz strolled onto the stage to the tune of the uplifting “Silhouette”. The nonchalant ease with which she navigated the track’s complex flows and overlapping rhyme schemes really lent credence to statements like “When the drums speak to me/I just breathe through it”. It was second nature. Even when taking a walk through the crowd in a metaphorical victory lap during “Heart on Fire” or ramping up the aggression and speed on the grimy “Venom”, Simz moved with purpose and precision like a well-oiled machine. So much so that you had to just stand in awe at the sight of it. All the while, Simz was clearly having fun. The nostalgic “101 FM” and the aforementioned “Heart on Fire” were both performed while absolutely beaming. Simz was made to do this, and if there was any doubt left that she is one of the best artists currently working in hip-hop, she was here to dispute it.

A reworked rendition of the anthemic opening track “introvert” from Simz’ 2021 album “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert” marked the beginning of the concert’s second act, in which she was joined by a band consisting of a guitarist and a bassist. What had before felt like a celebration of Simz in a tour de force of her own skills as a rapper and performer now ultimately coalesced into an act of collective self-affirmation and love. Where before the concert experience was a voyeuristic pleasure born from witnessing the greatness of Simz’ artistry, Simz now let us experience that very same greatness vicariously. The addition of live bass was especially appreciated on tracks like the bombastic “Gorilla”, and the one-two punch of “Point and Kill” and “Fear No Man”, which made for a great afrobeat break in the setlist, eliciting collective grooving and singing from the crowd. The complex, sauntering “Two Worlds Apart” felt like the ultimate showing of her storytelling abilities, and the sun-kissed and glitzy “Woman” was the perfect closer, the synthesis of intelligence, emotion, and self-love in the rapper’s work, leaving the people in attendance with a radiant glow as they scattered, a token of Little Simz’ eloquence.