Sheer artistry and talent
Adam England
16:52 31st August 2021

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Grey Area felt like the moment when Little Simz, aka Simbiatu Ajikawo, really announced herself. Receiving a large helping of critical acclaim, it was a breakthrough moment. On Sometimes I Might Be Introvert Simz continues to operate at the highest echelons of British rap. Is there anything as instantly catchy as ‘Selfish’ on this record? Maybe not...but that’s more than made up for by the sheer artistry and talent on display from the 27-year-old on her fourth full-length.

Nineteen songs is a lot, and a lesser artist could crumble under the pressure and deliver something underwhelming, but here Simz is very much more killer than filler. From the cinematic single ‘I Love You I Hate You’ to the effortless cool of ‘Rollin Stone’, there’s nothing here that appears simply to make up the numbers. 

Lead single ‘Introvert’ utilises the voice of Emma Corrin, who played Princess Diana in season four of ‘The Crown’. Also popping up in various interludes, Corrin takes on a sort of ‘Listen With Mother’ persona, addressing the listener in received pronunciation as if we’re settling down for storytime, and the authoritative yet maternal tone is strangely effective—almost reassuring.

‘Introvert’ is already surely one of the songs of 2021, and it sounds even better as the album opener here; Simz bringing the personal (“Simz the artist or Simbi the person?/To you I'm smiling, but really, I'm hurting”) and the political (“I'm not into politics, but I know it's dark times/Parts of the world still living in apartheid”) together while frequent collaborator Cleo Sol joins in on the chorus. 

It’s followed by ‘Woman’, on which we’re again treated to Sol’s mellifluous tones, as Simz looks back upon her Nigerian roots in a rallying cry to women across Africa and the world. Very much a conscious, introspective hip-hop record to start with, we do start getting into more adventurous territory as we go along. ‘Protect My Energy’ has a retro sound full of icy synths, while ‘Point and Kill’ featuring London-based Nigerian artist Obongjayar has a mesmerising, almost trance-like, percussive beat and clear Afrobeat influences.

We live in a world dominated by streaming and playlists, artists dropping music with Spotify’s playlist curators firmly in mind. But while Simz’s tunes do stand up on their own, this is something that should—at least now and again—be listened to from front to back as intended. It also deserves more than just a single or two on Solid Gold or Rap UK. 

It would be disrespectful too, you feel, to give Simz the title of “best female rapper in the UK” or something along those lines. Her gender doesn’t come into it; she’s simply one of the best out there. She’s playing in the big leagues. Simz might not have exploded at 18 with a host of radio-friendly bangers like some of her contemporaries, but she’s worked bloody hard over the years and it’s very much paying off.

We’ve spent the past month waiting for a record that turned out to be even longer than this one, and that ended up being something of an anti-climax. Stick Sometimes I Might Be Introvert on instead; you won’t regret it. 

Sometimes I Might Be Introvert arrives 3 September via AGE 101/AWAL.

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