Released on the same day as Donda and the new Drake, Little Simz’ follow-up to 2019’s GREY Area is every bit the impressive star turn its predecessor was
Two of the biggest names in hip-hop recently released new albums on the same day.
Drake’s Certified Lover Boy has since pretty much taken up residence in the Top 10 of the singles chart, with as many as nine slots in a single week taken up by songs from the ubiquitous Canadian’s release. Then Kanye West finally released Donda, which is second behind Drake on the albums chart.
Try looking on the charts, at least here in the U.S., for a third hip-hop album released on the same day, and you won’t find one that’s more than deserving of its share of chart love that seems reserved for the bigger names.
Artist: Little Simz
Album: Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
Label: Age 101 Music/AWAL Recordings
★★★★1/2 (4.5/5 stars)
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, Little Simz’ follow-up to 2019’s GREY Area (a Mercury Prize shortlist nominee and NME’s 2020 British Album of the year), is every bit the impressive star turn its predecessor was.
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is, yes, an acronym for Simz’s nickname, but it’s also a statement of fact for her, as she has talked in interviews about being introverted and how the album is a way for her to open herself up in a way that she hasn’t before.
VIDEO: Little Simz feat. Cleo Sol “Woman”
The result is an album that doesn’t feel overstuffed at 19 tracks (five of them interludes) because of Simz’s vision, which manifests in lyrical and musical diversity. She can go from Exacto-sharp braggadocio to openly vulnerable, with dexterity and incisiveness.
The introspection is balanced by Simz’s ability to look outward with empathy, as in one of the album’s standouts– “I Love You, I Hate You” a song about an absent father where she expresses hurt and anger before rapping “He was just once a boy, often I seem to forget/Lookin’ at Polaroids of pictures secretly kept”, seeing the father before he became, as she puts it, “the cause of my first heartbreak.”
As the saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people” and Simz moves on, not wanting that spread the hurt she feels for others (“I’m not forgivin’ for you man/I’m forgivin’ for me).
That empathy is in even greater focus on “Little Q Pt. 2”, a song written about a cousin she’d reconnected with after he’d survived a near-fatal violent attack. Simz doesn’t just take her cousin’s perspective, she puts herself in his shoes, seeing some of himself in his attacker — “But the boy that stabbed me is just as damaged as me/I could have been the reflection that he hate/The part of him he wishes God did not waste time creating.”
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is less of a push-and-pull album that it might seem, given that part of it is about the balance of Simz offstage, the person who, over ’80s retro synths on “Protect My Energy”, raps “Total silence is my therapy” and onstage, tossing off lines like “F***in’ up this dough like say it’s pizza” and the casual putdown “Want to be my plus-one?”
Simz acknowledges her need to pay it forward in “Standing Ovation” by acknowledging those who came before — “The immortal soldiers and the fearless protest-protesters/The motivational speakers and the honest Black leaders/The divine healers, the everyday, low-paid believers/The overachievers in the shadow of the gatekeepers.”
VIDEO: Little Simz “Venom”
Simz also has a concurrent career as an actor, starting in television as a teenager as while putting together first mixtapes and continuing to a main role in the return of UK drama “Top Boy” (coincidentally executive produced by Drake) and there’s a comfort and confidence in theatrical moments that she throws in from the get-go, as opener “Introvert” kicks off with drums and orchestra playing as if it’s a scene from a cinematic origin story where we see the lead as the titular hero for the first time.
It also shows in the appearances throughout the album from actor Emma Corrin, who played Diana, Princess of Wales in the most recent season of The Crown, in dialogue, asking in the interlude “The Rapper Who Came to Tea,” — However, the extroverts like to be entertained/And I was told you don’t talk much?/A question, if I may/What’s a girl like you want in a place like this?” and latter using an assuring tone in interlude “The Garden” — “Feelings of being misunderstood arе hard to fathom/But you were never brought here to fit in.”
VIDEO: Little Simz “Introvert”
The album isn’t all theatricality, Simz and producer Inflo (Sault, Michael Kiwanuka) keep things varied.
“Woman,” another standout, which features Sault’s Cleo Sol singing the hook, follows “Introvert” with lusher groove over which Simz drops rhymes about Black women’s empowerment, from London to Tanzania to Barbados to Brooklyn.
“Rollin Stone” shifts from a grime beat to a trap one. “Speed” is a synth-and-drums bopper. “Point and Kill” moves into Afrobeat territory with fluid bass and is followed by the percussion-driven “Fear No Man.” The Smokey Robinson sample gives “Two Worlds Apart” an old school feel.
This is an engagingly sharp effort from an artist who’s pretty much at the top of her game in what she says about the personal and the broader concerns and the flow in which she says it.
Simz tweeted in April, “No more slept on talk, no more underrated talk, pls & thank you.”
Fair enough, but the U.S. needs to catch up on Little Simz and Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is a great way to do it.