Bold in sound and brave in admission, Little Simz’s fourth album is a dreamy musical that crowns the rapper as the most talented of her class.
Few UK rappers push the sonic boundaries quite like Little Simz. Since her 2015 debut album, the North London maestro has exhibited viable candour, a dexterous pen, an ambition to work with production rather than beats, and talent that extends beyond music. “What happened to the content? What you saying? / You can tell that Simbi isn’t playing”, she declared on her 2015 track “Full or Empty”. Since then, Simz has carefully refined her product, harvesting the potential on 2019’s GREY Area, a brazen record that covered multiple bases in ten tracks and propelled her into the spotlight. With a rollout that stretches back to April, Simz’s latest album aims to double down on its robust singles.
With plenty tales to tell, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert knows exactly how to turn the page in Little Simz’s career, assured in its grandeur and quest to feed exactly what British hip hop needs.
Forever revealing in her music, Little Simz peels back further layers that grants new depth to the listener. Nearly double the runtime of GREY Area, the minimalism has been traded for an expansive experience, immersed in colour that is virtually day and night to the sound of the 2019 effort. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert retains the array of production to compliment various aspects of her personality, also led by improved songwriting, sharp album sequencing, and clarity in rather intimate subject matter. “I sit and listen to my old shit like damn, all it took was patience”, she admits on “How Did You Get Here”, validating her artistic journey and strive for perfection.
Conceptually, SIMBI draws closely from her 2016 sophomore, Stillness in Wonderland. An album that referenced the novel Alice in Wonderland and its Disney adaptations, SIMBI also creates a fantasy world through its similar use of interludes and dreamy production in a quest to find the best version of herself.
SIMBI sets its commanding intent from the opener, “Introvert”. Though timid in name, the track screams head honcho, its booming horns signalling the presence of royalty in the building. One lyric sets up and summarises the purpose of the album: “Simz the artist or Simbi the person? / To you I’m smiling but really I’m hurting”. Among the 19 tracks are songs that articulate her introversion, contrasted by songs that manifest her extroversion – the latter where she is smiling, and the former where she is hurting. It makes for an album that shows Little Simz wearing her heart on her sleeve, more than any other rapper has this year.
Across the record, Little Simz puts a great emphasis on the ‘sometimes’ in the album’s title. Her extroversion calls for tracks filled with confidence; chest out, ready to face any challenge. “Speed” channels the attitude of GREY Area‘s “Boss”, referencing the song while promoting her rapping ability. “Rollin Stone” is the peak of Simz’s cockiness, which is the closest we get to hear the rapper on trap production. On “Standing Ovation”, Simz demands praise for her talent and accomplishments, though considers why she yearns for such approval in the first place (“Why the desperate need to be remembered? / Everybody knowing what you’ve done, how far you’ve come / I’m guilty, it’s a little self-centred”). Little Simz has never sound so assured in her abilities, as smug as it may seem to unfamiliar ears.
Entirely produced by close friend and collaborator, Inflo, new landscapes are unlocked to form the grandeur. Palatial strings, choirs and orchestras are recruited across SIMBI, perhaps allowing Simz execute the early visions of Stillness in Wonderland now that she has the resources. Which is why from a pure musical point, SIMBI is one of the best-produced albums of the year. It is velvet to the ears, yet no piece is fabricated.
SIMBI is Little Simz’s most personal work yet, her words effortlessly connecting on an emotional scale as if you are turning pages on her diary. “I Love You, I Hate You” explores the push-and-pull relationship with her estranged father, tugging with the indecision of her feelings (“My ego won’t fully allow me to say that I miss you / A woman who hasn’t confronted all her daddy issues”). “Little Q” is rapped from the perspective of a male cousin who’s ties to the streets led to being stabbed and put in a coma, using the story to touch on the damaging effects of broken families and failures of society. Closing track “Miss Understood” dives into the tough relationship between Simz and her sister, accompanied by sugary keys and a genuine intent to reconnect. Family can be complicated, and SIMBI touches these realities impartially.
The magical Disney sound is widely present, reinforced by the five interludes. All five section the album and carry the intentionally cliché soundtrack to a Walt Disney fairytale. Actress Emma Corrin (of The Crown fame) voices the interludes, serving as an unnamed sage that encourages Simz. If not a separate character, it could be Little Simz’s inner voice that builds her confidence.
One interlude in particular is “The Rapper That Came to Tea”, inspired by the children’s story “The Tiger Who Came to Tea”. Corrin lets Simz know that “the extroverts like to be entertained”. Just like the tiger who came to the tea and ate all the food, the interlude speaks to Simz’s total dominance and takeover in the rap game. These interludes drive the album forward and play a key role in the Disney motif. You could not find better transitional tracks anywhere else.
What sells SIMBI is its attention to structure. There is nurtured care in the arrangements, verses, interludes and subject matter, an immediate feel that every track has been fed and cuddled. No half-steps are in sight, which cannot be said for many albums of 2021. Above all, it is Simz’s quest to find her best self that is the most gripping part of the record, constantly questioning and seeking answers. If there was ever a textbook blueprint on how to make an album, SIMBI would be an impeccable contender.
The ambition of SIMBI is higher than most homegrown artists have shown this year. From production value alone, SIMBI excels with flying colours. By consequence, it is left less tight than GREY Area, in exchange for sculpting the dreamland that come with a few detours (“Fear No Man”, “Rollin Stone”), along with an uncertain flow choice for the first half of “Two Worlds Apart”, a song that relies more on its irresistible sample. Lead singles “Introvert” and “Woman” set a hefty bar, and remain mountains among boulders. Perhaps not every track contributes to the aesthetic, but the anomalies remain enjoyable and warrants a no-skip experience.
With its rich production, sharp songwriting and ambitious themes, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert sets itself as the strongest UK rap record of the year. It is part novella, part Disney musical, tied in matrimony through Simz’s higher vision. Give Little Simz her standing ovation, but remember that the show’s not over yet.
8.5 / 10
Best tracks: “Woman”, “Introvert”, “Little Q, Pt. 2”, “Standing Ovation”, “Miss Understood”, “I Love You, I Hate You”