If you want a glimpse of the coming landscape of UK Rap and the women it holds in its ranks, take in ShaSimone. The Hackney raised British-Ghanaian rapper and songwriter who has made big moves since her first steps into music back in 2020.
From Twitter-based freestyles to international festivals and now with a debut EP ‘SIMMA DOWN’ under her belt, ShaSimone presents part of the newest wave of British female talent. Clash sat down with ShaSimone to talk through the journey of ‘SIMMA DOWN’, what life looks like to her now and being on your worst behaviour in school.
With humble origins, to say the least, ShaSimone’s experiences over the past few years seem to be almost as unexpected to her as they might be to anyone else. “I was doing hair and working in salons. Three years ago, I never even would have thought I’d be doing music.”
“I wouldn’t say someone sparked me wanting to make music but I grew up listening to a lot of 90s music, a lot of R&B and just old school style music.” Earlier this year she played the Rolling Loud festival in Portugal, I query how it felt performing to an international crowd. “I find it easier to perform in front of people that I don’t actually know. Strangely enough, I think it’s because they don’t have expectations of you. Depending on where I’m performing and the type of crowd I’ll always alter my set to suit them.” It’s no small feat to be able to play to such a breadth of audiences when three years before you had yet to take the most definitive step towards your potential.
She touches on her proudest achievements and her demeanour is incredibly grounded. “I would say it’s my consistency and just carrying on because music can be difficult and it’s so easy to get discouraged. I’m most proud of being able to carry on to finish a body of work, which is just so crazy to me. Being able to put it out and to do all the things that I’ve been doing is just like, wow!”
This journey was not started with a specific goal in mind, it was much more about making one right step after another. “The first thing I put out was a freestyle I did. The reception after I put it out was crazy. I cannot believe how many people were receptive to it. After my first freestyle, I put out a song and ever since that, I just kept going.”
The ‘Belly’ freestyle was released as her first single, a taste of what was to come when she followed up with her effortlessly slick bars on ‘Supersize’. “It led me to where I am today, I got reached out to by Dave and everything has been so fast-paced.”
We delve into whether she’s managed to acclimatise to the experience, she explains that by the time she stepped onto the scene she had already been through an incredibly transformational process so all the other changes that came with it folded into that time a lot easier. “Lockdown was the time for me to work on my self-confidence, who I am, my sound and the type of message I want to put out to people. For me, it was very transformational. I think I had to go through everything I went through to be able to even make my EP and just be who I am today.’
Her debut EP ‘SIMMA DOWN’ stands as a powerhouse of a project, seven tracks packed down with cold bars and inspired samples. Including her ‘Thug Affection’ single, which can be considered one of the strongest tracks in her growing arsenal. She tells me ‘Future’ with Avelino is the collab that stands as one of her favourite features on the project and it’s clear why, the pitched-up horn sample and playfulness of the vocals make for a powerfully distinct and unique collaboration. For someone who comes across as so determined, you would think she had always been in that mode but that’s not necessarily so in this case. “I was so naughty in school you know, I did not abide by the rules. I was a bloody terror!”
Her laugh is tinged with fond nostalgia as she starts recounting some of her worst stories. “One day I smoked weed in school and had a mad panic attack. They had to call the ambulance and everything. That was literally the worst day of my life. Honestly, it was a disaster. I was with my friends, I don’t know why we chose to do it at lunchtime of all the times we could have chosen. We had one more lesson left and I just started bugging the hell out. It was mad, mad, mad”
“I said you need to call my mom. I don’t know what’s happening to me. I’m going crazy I need my mom and my mom came and she’s just looking at me in such disappointment!”
She makes it clear, however, that her character at that age wasn’t without softness. “Growing up I wrote a lot of poetry. I’ve got my poetry books. That was a way for me to be expressive and to be able to say how I was feeling.”
From that space of self-reflection, a lot of her musical prowess started to show through. Reflecting on what her process looks like now she explains: “I work well when I’m alone at home or alone in the studio sometimes. I’m versatile. But it all depends on the vibe, I don’t know how to explain it. It’s weird. Sometimes I could be in a session with another artist and they’ve probably got their people there and we’ll be able to make music on the spot. It depends on how I feel on the day.”
The story behind her feature on Dave’s ‘Both Sides Of A Smile’ sounds like something pulled out of a movie. “Everything happened so fast. Within the same day, it was crazy. It was such a normal day. I went to the gym, had a session and I got the call asking if I could come through and lay it down and it was just mad for me.” Being in the right place at the right time brought an opportunity for her to showcase the skills she’d been sitting on and the supportive collaborators around her provided exactly the avenue needed to put this together.
“We have some mutual producers. There’s a producer I know called Sammy Soso that worked with one of Dave’s producers, they wanted female artists and they were looking through the current female artists out right now. They said he connected with my voice and my sound so they reached out and set it up”. It’s said that when you’re on the right path in life, doors will start to open up naturally and doors that you had to force open will only need so much as for you to step through them. This rings incredibly true as ShaSimone recounts this story.
Often when breaking down the elements of creative spaces that impact women they’re examined directly through their proximity to men, especially in the sphere of UK rap which can be hypermasculine, to say the least. I want to focus on how the women in ShaSimone’s life have built her up. I ask what they mean to her and if any of them shaped the artist she has become. Without hesitation she’s already right there, ready to rep the people who stand in her corner. “My mum has been very inspirational to me because she’s just such a strong woman. She’s confident and so sure of herself. I’ve definitely been influenced by my mum to be solid and who I am.”
It’s clear from her energy and the lightness in her voice that her mum is not only a big fan of hers but a huge driving force in the formation of her character. “When I told my mum I said, mum, I want to tell you something new that I’ve been doing. She said what, you do music now.? I didn’t even tell her but she just automatically just knew, it was so strange. There’s something about mums. They just know things!”
“Music has been the thing that my mum and dad are most proud of that I’ve done,” she beams. “They’re actually seeing the achievements live, they’ve been to my shows and they’ve seen everything.”
‘Simma Down’ EP is out now.
Words: Naima Sutton