Little Simz – No Thank You: Review

Surprising us with an album at the end of the year, it sounds like the gears never stop churning for Little Simz. Her fifth album, No Thank You comes after a whirlwind of a year, where she delivered Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, boasting her status past the underground and getting recognized for the quality of work she continuously drops. Winning Best New Artist at the Brit Awards, Simz made it known she will continue to grow while retaining true to herself, especially with the win coming at the height of the critically acclaimed SIMBI. The explorative sounds of SIMBI are this extravagant continuation of genre-bending, this time boasting Hip-Hop undertones with Afro-Beat and Soul. The music of No Thank You gets toned to ease the blend of unique overtones with minimalistic percussion. We hear more Gospel and Soul, and Simz allows herself to focus on being instead of being pressured by multi-layered beats. No Thank You is laying a foundation that sees Simz confronting her truth – her feelings without boundaries, and keeping it 100 at the cost of lyricism.

On No Thank You, Little Simz expands detailed contextual alignment with themes regarding race, musical and personal growth, etc., allowing them to be heard effervescently in the confines of its lavish production. No Thank You starts reeling you with the opening track, “Angel,” where she focuses on faith, her blackness, and her legacy with an exuberant bravado. It’s awe-inspiring; it makes one wish all the songs cared to embolden the Soul/Funk/Gospel overtones, but some sidesteps to express an aspect of her nature lose traction by feeling like the odd duck of the clan or the plainish “Control.” But “Gorilla” is that odd duck, but not because of its quality. It has a smooth, funkadelic bass line and minimalist percussion, allowing Simz to flow off the dome in a braggadocious fashion. But It’s more linear and more of a cut from SIMBI, with the excess of its drum patterns. As well, it doesn’t have the soulful nuance of the Gospel notes riding through many beats, hitting a peak with “Broken.”

“Broken” is a sonic reflection of the style incorporated on a platoon of tracks that exceed five minutes; however, melancholic outros add additional depth to its more streamlined consciousness. The bars are slick, and Little Simz isn’t devoid of clever rhyme schemes and metaphors. It counterbalances the spiritual cadence of the choruses and in-song transitions, and significantly, the intros and outros, where the hip-hop elements fade behind the curtain, giving center stage to the soulful vocals from singer Cleo Soul and musician/producer Kojo. They ease transitions as Simz buoys her identity through potential hurdles as her popularity grows. It gives new and old fans a spiritual understanding of her craft that won’t change, especially as Simz continues to try new sounds. 

The range of sounds producer Inflo delivers for Simz continues to boast her flows, which has been familiar since 2019’s Grey Area; on No Thank You, there is a continuous delineation between the genre influence getting heard. From the string and percussion-heavy “Silhouettes” to the acoustic choral overtones that let Simz break additional barriers by pushing more weight onto her lyricism on “Control” and “Sideways.” There is a crispness to the mixing that highlights both sides of the songs, letting you hear each detail, each angle it takes, as Simz never takes the short path to deliver. She paces herself fluidly through many tracks, allowing for a streamlining listen that lets you get from point A to point B while intaking everything smoothly.

Parallel to “Sideways” is the empathetic and emotionally captivating “Who Even Cares,” where Little Simz opts for a more sing-songy flow and lets us hear a different side of her. Though it follows a third-person narrative focusing on humbled beginnings and rational selfishness so one can succeed toward their goals, retreading some familiarity, there is an essence of being that realizes it more than its production. It’s funkadelic to the nines, seemingly feeling like a relic of the 80s, where the bass grooves and synthesizers take you to new levels as it plays through your ears. It isn’t the first time we’ve gotten to hear Little Simz sing, though it’s been more in the chorus; this shifts the dynamic of its delivery, specifically as a contrast to the more boom-bap, street flows of other tracks, like “Control” or “X.”

There is an essence to No Thank You that pits it against some of the best rap albums dealing with pure reflection, with the occasional sidestep into flexing; however, it succeeds in accomplishing a narrative. Its themes are expanded and given purpose through switches between the first and third person, offering a rejuvenating sense of relatability. It left me feeling a lot and wanting to hear more and more from Simz, and the constant change in sonic direction adds to that.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

The Weekly Coo’s – Top 15 Hip-Hop Albums of 2021

All reviews are linked to the album title.

Baby Keem came from under the shadows of his superstar cousin Kendrick Lamar to properly define himself after a few test tapes in swampy waters. Hip-Hop isn’t always the kindest, but the niches have allowed any artist to strive – to a certain point, sometimes – and Keem seemed to have something that may not have given him staying power. I’m talking about his vocal tendencies, melodies, and production. The Melodic Blue strives by subverting our thoughts and giving us a proper debut that rolls out monstrous hits, catchy hooks, and a multi-faceted Baby Keem.
Teetering between finding himself spiritually and finding himself musically, DMX’s career over the last decade has been forgettable, to say the least. Listening to Exodus, it was refreshing to hear DMX revert – sonically – to his roots. He whips up a whirlwind of songs that deliver nuances to the old while keeping itself modern – from a classic posse cut with The Lox, a classic triad with Jay-Z and Nas, a standout performance alongside Moneybagg Yo, who does the same, the path is limitless. Unfortunately, I thought so from looking at the tracklist. However, the few rough patches come with artists that tread into poppier sounds – his originality still holds it together tightly.
It’s hard to come up with the right words to describe Donda, and so I implore you to click the link above and read my review as it explains my true feelings.
Gotham took a chance with a sucker punch, and it lands firmly on your face. I can attribute that to Diamond D’s masterful production and rhyme skills alongside another NY veteran and master lyricist in Talib Kweli, which takes me back to that classic gritty boom-bap style of the past you sometimes want now and then.
LP! is raw. It is filled to the brim with interpersonal raps and linguistic gymnastics as JPEGMAFIA delivers how he feels like a creator. The visceral imagery on both sides of the coin continuously glows in front of the many aspects that make the music great, especially in Part II of “TIRED, NERVOUS & BROKE! (SICK, NERVOUS, AND BROKE!),” where JPEG and Kimbra create a melancholic unison. It may not be my favorite JPEG album so far, but it packs enough punch to be a solid follow-up to his last album, All My Heroes Are Cornballs.” From Review. 
One thing that I’ve always admired about Joell Ortiz is his hunger. Amongst prominent New York rappers, he has never stood out like his contemporaries – The Lox, Cam’ron, and Fabolous, to name a few. But that hunger gives us a potent personal reflection on his career and life in an excursion through great production and multi-faceted layers of character depth in his verses.
Nas improves his craft heavily on King’s Disease 2, from the lyrical depth to stylistic constructs. He still fails to find his footing when creating “hits,” though Nas isn’t the one who fails, his features sometimes don’t bring that same energy like A Boogie on the song “YKTV,” or they are underused like Blxst on “Brunch On Sundays.” But most of the album hits as Nas takes everything by the horns and delivers us some heavily introspective work that drops knowledge bombs like on “Death Row.” It’s an overall fantastic listen.
"I Died For This?! is far from your typical debut, similar to Kendrick Lamar’s GKMC; it is about telling his story and upbringing. The only difference is the universal appeal that comes from the music. Grip’s debut takes us through his upbringing and everyday situations burdening him and his community. Grip’s creativity sounded limited in the past, with simple bounce production weighing his style down from growing." From Review.

Grip’s raw energy and determination to prove his worth only embolden his strengths to mask some basic chorus deliveries – it’s sometimes common for new artists, especially for rappers privy to his style of lyricism. Unfortunately, a few tracks don’t stick the landing – it derives from Grip’s breather from different angles of his craft.
"Of the four projects Boldy James and The Alchemist have made together, Bo Jackson is the best. It never creates friction allowing everyone to breathe on the track in their distinctive ways." From Review.
It’s hard to come up with the right words to describe A Beautiful Revolution Pt. 2, and so I implore you to click the link above and read my review.
"Tempus exceeds beyond the parameters of the walls it imposes on itself for a marketable reach, but Issa Gold has never been one to glamorize success as his mental health still hits him in strife. These recurring themes have been a looming shadow on the rapper as he comes to grips with the way life changed. He may not have the appeal of New York rappers who encompass, the currently trendy, New York Drill sound and expand it to fit the unique niche of their verbal artistry." From Review.
4. Blu – The Color Blu(e)
"The Color Blu(e) isn’t as profound and tightly wound as Miles, but Blu doesn’t take shortcuts. He still comes at full force with diverse subjects and verses that are as memorable as the production. From the various samples, some of which are as luscious as “Mr. Blue Sky,” you’ll still find more pieces to dissect and enjoy. In terms of hip-hop, this is one of the best projects this year, and it earns one of my more earnest recommendations." From Review.
"Call Me If You Get Lost shows Tyler, the Creator consistent ascension toward greatness as he continues to surprise us with new sounds, album after album. After a slew of great releases that didn’t always come together tightly, Tyler finds an equilibrium that highlights his strengths as an artist in what could be deemed his best work of his career and creating a landmark within generalized nostalgia trends going about these days." From Review.
"Vince Staples gives us Vince delivering his most personal work to date in a melancholic and depth-filled album. For some, the album may deter you due to its length and others may be deterred due to the uncanniness of the sound. Though it isn’t uncanny as Vince has been everywhere and on different instrumentals, that this subdued direction isn’t anything new. It is an album that is as fresh as they come, especially with the wrought trend going on in hip-hop today and I highly recommend you give it a listen and more than once." From Review.
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is Little Simz’s best work – it’s introspective, clear-headed musically, and offers a mix that gets us her lyrical best. The production never wanes into becoming a distraction, as it only amplifies her strengths. From incorporating sounds that bridge hip-hop and Afrobeat to luminous hip-hop with soul and electronic undertones, the music has a consistent path where the switches are fluid without hindrance. 

Check out the review by clicking the link above.

Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

Little Simz is unlike the more popular UK rappers bridging oceans. For one, she doesn’t devote herself to making pop songs and instead focuses on the concept and lyricism — it benefits her that she had a pivotal supporting role in Top Boy, becoming popular from involvement on the soundtrack from artists like Drake. It has been the case since her early, more underground releases like Stillness In Wonderland and Black Canvas. Since then, she has grown exponentially as an artist, honing her craft and delivering gritty and depth-filled braggadocio raps at the same consistency as her more auspicious conscious raps. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is less gritty but filled to the brim in detail; this detail is part of the journey through her subconscious, showing us a deeper understanding of her person and artistry.

Sometimes I Might Be Introvert isn’t the first time Little Simz has made a concept album; however, it is the first time one hits from start to finish. Simz opens the album without sugarcoating her doubts and fears into these emotionally complex bars that set the stage for the album. She has been keen on keeping her raps authentic to her vulnerably poetic rhythm and flows. These kinds of raps have been part of her identity, like blending two cultures in her music. Unfortunately, as she would mention later in the album, it is her authentic self — she brings forth production that takes influence from sounds that are less Pop, allowing her to deliver flows naturally. 

From this, Little Simz pushes herself to make these doubts an absent memory as she hones her introversion and makes it an artistic and personal strength. Throughout the album, Little Simz raps about lessons learned, visions understood, and her place in this new woke culture, as she fits within the demographic of her peers. Through her perspective, she allows the music to speak to the subtleties an introvert deals with, like love, familial relationships, and in her case, her musical career. It begins with “Introvert,” which centers all the themes into an explosive conscious rap with BLARING horns and intense percussion. 

After the strong opener, Simz shifts the focus to beautiful women — her daily influences — this is an external force, which boosts her confidence, especially as a rapper. “Women” adds a deep perspective toward the cultural influences women of all races have delivered throughout the years. In turn, she reflects this influence with the production her regular producer, Inflo, creates with refined details, especially the interludes — they deliver a combination of whimsical wind instruments and piano keys, subtly laying layers over the primary vocals and faint background harmonies. 

Sometimes I Might Be Introvert goes beyond the crevices, with Little Simz relaying situations that may have caused her introversion, as a guardian angel, voiced by actress Emma Corrin, guides her throughout the journey we take in Simz’s shoes. Inflo’s delicate and nuanced gospel and soul-influenced choir sectors add brevity to the words of Emma — or in this case, her guardian. Emma Corrin is best known for her performance as Princess Diana on the Netflix drama, The Crown. And like Princess Diana’s influence on the world, Corrin brings a similar tender approach to her conversations with Little Simz. She becomes a semblance for living for Little Simz — in a non-suicidal way — particularly, the life of her music career.

It begins at the end of “Introvert,” Emma Corrin says: “Your introversion led you here/Intuition protected you along the way/Feelings allowed you to be well balanced/And perspective gave you foresight,” and that is where the similarities begin. With Emma Corrin’s glowing presence throughout the album, the back and forth adds unique insight into Little Simz’s life and acknowledging self-worth. 

Emma Corrin’s appearance at the end of “Introvert” reminds me of the narrative structure of the Lars Von Trier film, The House That Jack Built. In the movie, Jack converses with Verge as he descends into Hell, and within the conversation, he recounts his journey through five murders. However, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is not narcissistic, like The House That Jack Built. Instead, it follows a hollow structure where the conversations become intermittent with the stories in between. It is as far as this similarity goes. 

In between the songs, whenever Emma Corrin appears with an angelic effect built around the choir and horn instruments, particularly the trumpet and trombone. The way Emma inflects her voice adds a contrasting light to Simz’s doubts through the various subjects explored. It is pivotal to understanding and enjoying the album from start to finish, especially when peeling the skin of her emotions.

One thing that comes from being an introvert is the complexion of your emotions when let out. Without a proper way of inflecting your tone and words, the build-up can be immense; however, Little Simz doesn’t get phased by dropping all the weight down. Whenever Sometimes I Might Be Introvert isn’t focusing on Simz purview of the world and instead focuses on her relationships with the people in her life. In the song “Little Q Pt. 2,” Simz shifts the perspective to her cousin, who grew up on the south side of the UK. Due to Simz’s introversion, she lost touch with certain people — like family. And on “I See You,” Simz creates a love song through the eyes of a self-conscious introvert.

At a midpoint, Little Simz brings out an inner realization about amounting her worth to her surroundings. It’s one thing to be a pop star or a signature star in general, but it’s another to have enough to command a stage, especially at a festival. In the song “Standing Ovation,” Simz finds her way to express her status amongst the crowd, going as high as proclaiming her and the rest of the behind-the-scenes people deserve applause. The clever double-entendre sees Simz breaking apart her reasoning, with intricate rhymes about her patience and commitment to authenticity without forcing a chart-topper.

Apart from a slow burn that eventually takes you to the scene-stealing “Standing Ovation,” Little Simz goes about revitalizing her technical and lyrical strength as a contrast to the prominent theme of introversion. On “Rolling Stone,” we hear her diving to her younger roots with a rapid-fire flow and slick wordplay, marking it as a reminder of her skills, albeit the consistently introspective turns she takes in her music. This kind of confidence is heard back-to-back on “Point and Kill” and “Fear No Man.” It carries a consistent vibe with Simz digs into her Nigerian roots and implements aspects of the culture in the music. “Point and Kill” features poet and spoken word artist, Obongjayar, and his presence on the chorus flourishes with the key afrobeat influenced horns and production. 

No matter how you view it, the nuance and culture Little Simz and Inflo bring are more than the depth of the lyrics. Sometimes Simz is distraught, but she reassures herself, unapologetically, on “Point and Kill.” And it continues as she closes Sometimes I Might Be Introvert strong with “How Did You Get Here” and “Miss Understood.” After draining her emotional weight and discovering herself, she has the confidence to explain how she got to where she is and the misunderstanding of her music.

Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is Little Simz’s best. There is no denying it. Within the tracks, there are individualized highlights that carry repeat value, but as a whole, it’s all repeatable. It isn’t this bombastic hip-hop/pop album that makes noise through wavelengths, but Simz’s distinct carefulness makes it a compelling record. It’s rare to dig into the next level, as artists tend to seal it off when their success inflates their ego and comfortability factors.

Rating: 10 out of 10.