Little Simz is a London-based rapper, singer, and actor with Nigerian heritage. She became a public figure in her mid-teens; in 2010 she appeared in the TV series Spirit Warriors and released her first mixtape Stratosphere. Her first full-length albums, released in her early twenties, received little attention. 2019’s Grey Area was produced by Sault‘s Inflo and transformed her into a critical darling. 2021’s Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of the most acclaimed records of the year.
Simz’s social conscience recalls the neo-soul of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Cleo Sol‘s sumptuous backing vocals recreate Hill’s ability to rap and sing. As a teenager, Simz had posters of Lauryn Hill, Nas, and Jay-Z on her walls.
Little Simz Album Reviews
A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons
2015, not rated
After four mixtapes and five EPs, Little Simz’s debut album was released on her own record label. Little Simz was the executive producer.
Stillness in Wonderland
2016, not rated
As evident from the title, Little Simz’s sophomore album took inspiration from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It was accompanied by a comic book.
Produced by Sault’s Inflo, Grey Area was a critical breakthrough for Little Simz. The larger budget allowed her to use live musicians, and her socially conscious hip-hop is surprisingly eclectic – there’s a jazz inflection to some tracks, and a neo-soul feel to others. Although Grey Area was Simz’s first album produced by Inflo, they first collaborated in 2008.
Unlike Simz’s idol Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Grey Area is too edgy for crossover mainstream success. Her vocal delivery is loaded with bite in the feminist anthem ‘Venom’ -“Never givin’ credit where it’s due ’cause you don’t like pussy in power/Venom.” The opening pair of tracks are also filled with bile – on ‘Boss’, Simz declares that she’s “a boss in a fucking dress”.
Grey Area visits neo-soul territory in the closing two tracks, and they add some nice diversity. ‘Sherbet Sunset’ is my favourite track; the keys and chorus give it a neo-soul feel, as do Michael Kiwanuka’s guest vocals on the closer ‘Flowers’.
A charismatic vocalist backed by great production – Grey Area is a terrific record.
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
The title of Little Simz’s fourth album, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, is an acronym of Simz’s given name Simbiatu. Inflo is back in the producer’s chair for SIMBI, but where Grey Area was abrasive and experimental, this is a glossier and more accessible record.
Right from the opening ‘Introvert’, the record oozes confidence. The opening orchestral fanfare could have opened a James Bond theme, while the dialogue comes from actor Emma Corrin. Despite Simz’s introversion, she’s often sharing personal themes with the world – ‘I Love You, I Hate You’ is about her difficult relationship with her father. Inflo’s productions have become more ambitious – along with the orchestration, ‘Protect My Energy’ could have come from Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Inflo has produced a raft of great music over the past few years, but Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is the biggest and best record he’s produced yet.
NO THANK YOU
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert was one of 2021’s most-loved records, scooping the Mercury Prize. Where that album was grand, with orchestration and big concepts, No Thank You is a more low-key affair, slipping out in mid-December with little fanfare. There’s still some orchestration, but the focus is squarely on Little Simz’ lyrics and vocals. Produced by Inflo and featuring backing vocals from Cleo Sol, No Thank You continues a prolific couple of months from the Sault camp.
Opener ‘Angel’ is one of my favourite Little Simz tracks – it doesn’t hurt that she references the New Zealand delicacy manuka honey, but the Cleo Sol-sung chorus is gorgeous. It forms a strong opening pair with ‘Gorilla’, even though No Thank You is a little weaker than Simz’ previous records overall. The album branches into neo-soul at the end, with ‘Who Even Cares’ and ‘Control’. The centrepiece track ‘Broken’ has also been hitting hard for me, as I’ve been struggling with a troubled neighbour.
Generational trauma you’ve had to deal with alone
No father, how do you become a man on your own?
Did the best that you could with the tools you were loaned
Didn’t know how to break the mould and now you’re raising a cloneLittle Simz, Broken
No Thank You is a step down from Little Simz’ previous two records, but she’s still an impressive talent on a more modest record.
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Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate both Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande. Based in Fleet Street (New Zealand), he's been writing this blog since around 2000. Aphoristic Album Reviews features reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.
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