Little Simz' spectacular Sometimes I Might Be Introvert may be 2021's album of the year
Her 2019 record GREY Area was a triumphant, award-winning breakthrough, but Little Simz' new album proves her peak is yet to come.
When London-based rapper Little Simz shared her third album GREY Area, it felt like a triumphant breakthrough. It was honest and unafraid both lyrically and sonically, capturing her vulnerability and dissections of the world around her through bold, cutting-edge hip-hop that by the end of the year it was released (2019), felt like a defining moment of the culture's continued growth and progression. It was evolutionary, not just for the British rapper herself but for hip-hop as a whole, as the genre continued to power forward and re-invent itself time and time again to keep its consistent trajectory.
It was also an album that for many, placed a bar that would be impossible to topple. It was one of 2019's best albums, reaching rap-specific decade-end lists and ushering Little Simz into the upper echelon of hip-hop's new generation; setting a standard that many wouldn't come close to in the years following. Simz' Drop 6 mixtape in 2020 proved that she was continuing to reach those heights, but doing so in the context of a full-length record would be a daring achievement, one that many downplayed as near-impossible.
With that said, Little Simz' fourth record - Friday's arriving Sometimes I Might Be Introvert - proves that the impossible bar is still breakable, and just like an Olympic sprint, if everyone is going to topple that benchmark, it's likely to be the person that set it in the first place.
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert album is an acronym-of-kinds of 'Simbi', which makes up a part of Simz' full first name, Simbiatu. It's a clever and twisted display of personality that defines the sprawling 19-track record that follows, which weaves in and out of the rapper's world while capturing a consistent evolution that shines personally and musically throughout the course of the record; an experimentalism in sonic production revealing itself parallel with a sense of personal growth that defines much of the album's rushing lyricism.
It's a moment of self-expression through art, as Simz explains, tidying together the mayhem of her thinking and creating wonderful, genre-fleeting creations out of it. "I'm just very to myself and I didn't know how to really navigate that, especially coming in this industry where you're expected to have this extroverted persona all the time," she told The Guardian. "[Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is me] being this introverted person that has all these crazy thoughts and ideas and theories in my head and not always feeling like I’m able to express it if it’s not through my art."
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert brings those thoughts and feelings to the forefront. The album-opening Introvert sets the tone, witnessing Simz "turning inwards and finding peace" within herself "amongst all the chaos that’s happening in the world." From there, the album darts between empowerment and confessional reflections alike. Women uplifts and celebrates womanhood, and the inspiration it provides Simz. I Love You I Hate You being a personal reflection on family. Songs like Speed and Point And Kill boast in a way different to the classic hip-hop convention, twisting moments of celebration with metaphors and symbolism.
It's a mantra that unveils itself amongst the album's long-winding duration, as each melody and each lyric is plucked apart and rebuilt with the layers that Little Simz strives for within her work; the deeper meanings that make her Genius page littered with arguments on metaphorical meanings and lyrical interpretation. There's something special in how Little Simz is capable of doing that, and while GREY Area showed that to a standard never before seen, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert goes beyond, making it a striking, once-in-a-lifetime listen.
Then, there's the production. With plenty of room for evolution and experimentation, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert unravels with everything from classical orchestrals to cascading drums, darting between entire time capsules of musicianship and tying them together with the intricacies only Little Simz can bring. One second, her vocals will navigate warped percussion and darting melodies. The next, they'll be placed alongside this Alice In Wonderland-esque haze, rich with cinematic strings that charge Simz for her next display of quick-firing lyricism.
It's a tapestry of sounds that become Little Simz' own over the course of Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, and while her past work has always been bold in sound, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert feels like a titan of hip-hop moulding together sounds that otherwise have been kept apart, unafraid of the confusion and chaos it may bring.
"It was always going to be quite cinematic and of scale," she tells NME. "I wanted to make a visual and colourful album that was almost a soundtrack to my life. The orchestration really helps bring that to light, especially the way we use strings and have it float throughout the project and within these interludes, making it feel concise. I think that was a genius decision, to be honest."
It's something that happened quite naturally, from what she explains, carving out a sense of natural evolution and elevation that sees Sometimes I Might Be Introvert arrival amongst the most ambitious - and brilliantly executed - albums. "It just happens," she continues. "We were making these little demos, it was calling for certain things like live orchestration, backing vocals and all these kinds of things and we just followed it. Everyone bought the right intention to the music, which is why it sounds the way it does. Everyone’s intention was pure and just wanted to give the best of the project. This album is definitely a step up from both those projects. I’ve not shied away, but I’ve just tried to elevate."
Little Simz is a pioneer - but that's something everybody already knows. You can hear her ambition and class in the Black women finding their own glory through modern-day hip-hop, whether it be in the UK - where Simz is a trailblazer amongst the commercialism of particularly male-focused rap music - right through to Australia, where her presence is felt in the collectedness of Sampa The Great right through to the dexterity and skill of Australian rap's next generation.
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert almost feels like Little Simz proving that her prowess remains present; that the unbeatable levels she sets continue to be beatable, albeit not by anyone else by herself. It takes a real artist to do that, and while GREY Area - even Drop 6 - prove that Simz has that artistry, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert witnesses that artistry grow and evolve into something only someone like Simz can contain; something that only someone like Simz can mould into this pioneering creativity that Sometimes places in the limelight.
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is exceptional, further elevating her into one of the greats. It may be a hyperbole classic of music journalism, but in the context of Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, it's clear that there's going to be no-one quite like Little Simz.