FRIENDSHIPS BETWEEN ARTISTS CAN BE IMPORTANT IN MANY WAYS, FROM COMPANIONSHIP ON TOUR TO MUTUAL ENCOURAGEMENT, BUT BEST OF ALL IS WHEN THAT BECOMES A CREATIVE COLLABORATION. AS PART OF THE LIFE IN STEREO SERIES EXPLORING MUSIC AND COLLABORATION, WE FIND OUT HOW RAPPER LITTLE SIMZ AND PRODUCER OSIRIS THE GOD (AKA OTG) BONDED DURING A SNOWSTORM ON THE STREETS OF PRAGUE.
Little Simz has a fond memory of when it first felt that her relationship with OTG really clicked into place. They were on their first European tour together and had arrived in Prague on a cold winter's day. After soundcheck, she and OTG went for a walk around the Czech capital. "It was snowing like crazy, it was nuts," Simz says now. "The city had this old school feel to it, and we were wandering the streets, making snow angels, it was a proper memory, being lost in Prague. Time was ticking, we've literally got a show, doors are open, and we're nowhere to be seen."
Thankfully they made it back in time and the show went perfectly. It was an early triumph in a collaboration that has thrived in both the studio and onstage, from her E.D.G.E. project in 2014 to appearing on OTG’s 2017 track The Book. It all began when OTG first heard Simz’ music at college, and instantly became a fan. "I knew that she had heaps of potential," he remembers now. He began sending her his own productions via email. Busy with her own music, Simz ignored them for months but when she finally opened one of OTG’s messages and listened, she realised she'd been missing out. "I thought ‘oh this kid's actually sick’," she says.
"I went back and opened all the unopened emails in the past and thought ‘I'm sitting on a goldmine’. I had no idea!" It was then that Simz asked OTG to join her on that early tour of Europe.
It took Simz a while to work out how to let collaborators into her music, something she freely admits is "a bit of a control issue" that came from the start of her career being so DIY. Now though, she says "I want their input, and to know if the hook sounds good or if it can be improved" - and this is especially so when it comes to OTG. "I've written with Osiris and I don't write with anyone," she says.
Simz and OTG have found that the key for making their studio time work is knowing when things that set them apart can actually be an asset. According to Simz, the biggest difference between the pair is how they approach music making. She freely admits that she's more concerned "about feeling, capturing the magic, it doesn't have to be mixed down to a tee", whereas Osiris is obsessed with getting the right sound and would, if left to his own devices, sit for hours making sure it was perfect.
Simz points out that if she was as obsessive about sonic detail as OTG they'd get nothing done, but that combination of her quest for feeling and his mastery of sound is what makes it work. "I need to be 'yo, don't worry about the kick drum, get the pattern down, let's figure out how it makes us feel and get moving," Simz says.
Similarly, both artists freely admit that they have arguments. "There's plenty," says OTG. “I think it’s good to disagree with your peers because it opens you up to perspectives that you may have never seen or thought of before and that truly allows you to have a more accurate insight to somebody’s thought process". Simz concurs that these arguments "make us stronger - if Osiris has pissed me off, or I him, he'll let me know about it and I'll do the same. The comfort is that high, that we can let each other know." So, as well as being artistic collaborators who instinctively understand what each other wants to do, they've become as close as friends as you can be. "He'll ask me about girls, 'what does she mean by that', so we have each other on that level as well which is the sickest thing because it's not all just music - it's family."
WHEN DID YOU LAST SEE EACH OTHER, AND WHAT DID YOU DO?
OTG: We had a whale of a time at our friend's house party.
Simz: Aside from tour we definitely hang out, even if it's when he comes to my house where there's a little studio and he'll just use that, make beats or whatever, and I'll be doing my thing. He's like a brother, legit.
CAN KNOWING SOMEONE’S ART BEFORE YOU MEET THEM CREATE CERTAIN EXPECTATIONS OF HOW THEY’LL BE IN REAL LIFE?
OTG: Definitely, but it’s very subjective. People can construe their own opinions about somebody through their art and subconsciously begin to expect them to be that way. As you could imagine, that could leave somebody disappointed for invalid reasons.
DOES THAT EXTEND TO MUSIC TOO?
Simz: Even some of the stuff he listens to on a daily basis, you wouldn't think he listens to that. He's a true musician isn't he, so when he hears things he hears what he can do in terms of sampling. His palette is just open. He's very seasoned.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE SHARED MEMORY?
OTG: I honestly can’t answer this question, there’s too many rich memories to cycle through in my head. It’s impossible to choose a favourite.
Simz: Definitely Prague. Shared moments deepen the collaboration, and we have so many moments like that. Even when I come back and tell my other friends, the most they can say is 'oh that happened yeah' but only me and Osiris will know how funny it was... or how scary.
IN THE FILM, YOU MENTION LONDON. WHAT'S THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CITY TO YOU - WHAT DO YOU FEED OFF?
Simz: I love the attitude of a Londoner. We just get on with it, don't we? We're super animated in ways. I could walk into so many different scenarios and it'd be like a movie. I don't feel like I get that anywhere else in the world.
OTG: London is of heavy importance to me due to the fact that it’s where I was born and raised. It will always be installed in me by default. I always feel like people that come to London from other countries are surprised by what they figure out. It’s not just tea and crumpets over here, there’s a lot of culture here to be explored.
HAVE YOU EVER CALLED EACH OTHER FOR ADVICE?
OTG: All the time.
Simz: Yeah for sure, he gives great advice. He's a boy, you know what I'm saying. I've had relationships with boys and sometimes I just don't understand you guys, but Osiris breaks down various things so they make sense, and vice-versa.
IS YOUR FRIENDSHIP HELPFUL FOR MAINTAINING MENTAL HEALTH ON THE ROAD?
OTG: Definitely. When you’re on the road, as well as working together, you’re basically living together. So, it’s important to have a good balance of friendship and workmanship.
Simz: Yeah for sure. If I'm feeling like I don't want to do this show or whatever but then with Osiris there it makes a difference.
WHAT ABOUT A CREATIVE FRIENDSHIP MAKES IT DIFFERENT FROM OTHERS?
OTG: I wouldn’t say it’s too different. At the end of the day it will all boil down to the type of people that are in question.
Simz: I think it's sick, why wouldn't you want to have that close friendship with someone you make music with? If anything, it takes the pressure off. If I feel like I'm not in the right headspace to execute what we have to, I know there's no judgement, it's 'yeah cool'. It's so easy.
IF YOU’VE AN AFTERNOON SPARE AND MONEY IS NO OBJECT, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR DREAM FRIENDS DATE?
OTG: If money’s no object, we’d take a trip to space.
Simz: It'd definitely be food related. We always introduce each other to amazing spots, I try something and think 'Osiris will love this'.
WHAT'S THE MOST USEFUL OR KINDEST THING OSIRIS HAS EVER SAID?
Simz: Simz: He's done loads man. We've had super emotional chats, we've both teared up.
WHAT'S THE BEST THING ABOUT OTG?
Simz: Simz: He's super caring.
WHAT DO YOU NORMALLY DO WHEN YOU HANG OUT?
Simz: Simz: He's always down to order food or eat. I'm on his Deliveroo account as well, so when I'm ordering and I think I'm being sly about it, he's all 'so-and-so is on the way yeah' and I'm dying.
WHAT'S THE BEST MUSIC HE'S RECOMMENDED YOU?
Simz: Simz: I think Hiatus, that was a good one.
AUTHOR LUKE TURNER PHOTOGRAPHER WILL ROBSON-SCOTT