ALBUM REVIEW: Little Simz, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
Let me just cut to the chase because this is a very lengthy album with a lot to discuss. Little Simz has been making a name for herself in the U.K. rap scene since 2014, when she released a pair of EPs called Age 101 Drop 1 & 2. She is one of those artists that just came out of the gates swinging with a distinct voice, a great flow and experimental production; that’s all to say, she was destined to be a star. Flash forward to the present day, she now has four full-length albums under her belt, with Sometimes I Might Be Introvert being her latest. Even with all that experience, she still sounds hungry and like she has something to prove from the very first song, “Introvert”. It’s clever mix between loud orchestration and Arlo Parks-style soft rock makes it sound like a female led Bond film. She brings forth many heavy topics, “There's a war inside, I hear battle cries/Mothers burying sons, young boys playing with guns” she raps before going in on corrupt government officials. It’s pretty impressive how Simz is so adeptly able to make all of these ideas work in harmony, the topics never overshadow her voice. The same can be said for the rest of the album.
Over an hour and five minutes, Simz and her producers craft soul, grime, quiet rock, ‘80s electro funk, Disney-sized orchestral skits and afropop. Just based on the songs I like and the quality performances on the songs I don’t, I have to give this a Standout Album designation. The problem is never that Simz doesn’t do what she needs to, it’s just that there is way too much material on here. The record especially lags and falls off at the very end, with a series of so-so tracks and a closer feels redundant. While I’m getting my complaints off, I’d like to say that the interlude tracks are too long. For me, extra analysis and digging into albums comes with enjoyment. If I loved everything this album had to offer, I’m sure the skits would be essential to me. But I don’t love everything here and therefore, the skits drag the album down in my opinion. Even with all that considered, the instrumentation in the background of all these skits is spot on and really well done. I just find them to be a little overblown, like watching Kingdom Hearts cutscenes but the main character is a British rapper.
Ok, now let’s dive into everything this album does so right, because there’s a lot. “Woman” is a pure Badu with it’s “Window Seat”-type jazz drum beats and Cleo Sol’s immaculate soulful singing. Simz is such a pro too as she weaves her chilled bars in between, “Miss Ethiopia can play so jazzy/Then sit you down and school you on Selassie”. It’s a nice feel good female empowerment anthem after all the hardships presented on the first track. “Two Worlds Apart” shows Simz in scorned lover mode, just absolutely going at her ex over slowed bongos and soul loops. She so calmly revels in the downfall of this man, but ultimately the sample says it all, “and I love you…”, which leads us to the next song. “I Love You, I Hate You” was a strong single, and sounds even better in the context of the record. Over strings and chunky bass, she bounces around her mixed feelings about her absent father, but ultimately comes to the conclusion that she forgives him for her own growth, not because what he did was excusable. On “Little Q Pt. 1&2” Simz continues to reconnect to distant family members through her music, this time it’s her cousin Qudus who was stabbed and left in a coma. On “Pt. 2”, she raps from his perspective, “Trying to think outside of the box but stuck in the ends”. No role models, oceans of doubt and misplaced anger leads to a cycle of violence that breeds pain, jail and death. It’s really remarkable how she is able to look at it from a 360 degree view, addressing both the mindset of her cousin waking up in the hospital and the dude who stabbed him. Her ability to tell stories is thoroughly impressive.
“Standing Ovation” continues the sonic themes of the opener, it sounds like a more high-budget version of a ‘70s blaxploitation soundtrack. I love how speedy it all is, reflecting her quick rise to the top and all the feelings that come with it. With lyrics like “Standin' ovation for the one who's wearin' a crown/I got royalty In my blood, I was born great” she sounds like prime-era Drake, so convinced in her own greatness that we all start to believe in it. “I See You” sees Simz going in a more slowed down and romantic direction, which doesn’t quite fit but I’m here for it. Her whispered tone is so sensual, and the producer really does their best to mimic the intimacy of a Tiny Desk Concert, complete with a returning Cleo Sol providing guest vocals. The one-two punch of “Rollin Stone” and “Protect My Energy” is my favorite part of the record for sure. The former has been in heavy rotation for me, briefly going back to the grime sound that made Grey Area such a great record. “No cap, we hate snakes and we hate rats” she puts it bluntly just before going into a bassy and hard-hitting chorus, “Mummy handled business, Papa was a rollin' stone/I'm a mix of both, there ain't no bitch-boy in my bones”. AHHH! SO FUCKING GOOD FAM! “Protect My Energy” is the exact opposite, a free and fun little ‘80s electro tune. Her switch from hard-nosed killer to this is night and day, but somehow she doesn’t fumble it at all.
The record gets a little dicey from here, with two long interludes and only a few songs that I really love. “Fear No Man” is the afropop I was talking about earlier, its built on this shuffling percussion, wailing organ and vintage-sounding background vocals. It’s a jam for sure, but it is a little too instrumental for my tastes, especially after making it through so much material. “How Did You Get Here” sees Simz getting reflective over slow, sad pianos. It’s one of the quietest and most up close moments on the record. I love her lyrics here, shit is inspirational. “I improvised my way here, no rules/Back when it was serious handing mixtapes out at my school/All I had was my brain and my hunger had to use that as tools”. Lowkey the way she talks about making music is how I often feel about covering it. I work hard at it, a few people believe in me, some people don’t get it, but overall I know this is what I’m good at and I’m going to keep doing it until it pops off. It’s only a matter of time, and songs like this, as corny as it sounds, make me feel like I’m not fucking crazy to try this. I really wish this was the closer, because I think “Miss Understood” feels too slow after this already slow song. Overall, this is a great record and I think you should all listen to it. Those who don’t have to review music everyday can probably sit with it, interludes and all, and really live and breathe the record. While I don’t have time for that, I recognize that this is an ambitious album that often pays off and for that, I have to give flowers to Little Simz. Great work.