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Well, wow. There is so much going on over the 19 tracks of Little Simz’s fourth album that it’s going to take fans much longer than rushed critics to process the richness of sound and ideas explored here.
But what I can already tell you is that Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is the most thrilling album of the year. It’s loaded with drama. Huge Bond theme-level orchestration. Massive soulful choirs. Sexy vintage soul samples. Seventies Afrobeat. Brass, flute, beats and the voice of a rapper who knows when to punch forward and when to step back. Her ego and self-doubt are held in tense balance between lines such as, “I’m a Black woman and I’m a proud one” and, “I’m guilty, it’s a little self-centred.”
In a time where we find ourselves craving nuanced intelligence, 27-year-old Simbiatu Ajikawo knocks it out of the park with her cool, collected rumination over a series of varied grooves. In an interview with the Financial Times this month, the London-born child of Nigerian parents said that the album is about “me finding power within my introversion”. People tend to associate the word with shyness, she pointed out, but it can also be a sign of self-possession and confidence. “I’ve never felt the need to be the loudest person in the room. I know my presence holds weight.”
Unlike many rappers – whose anxiety requires them to be front and centre at all times – Simz demonstrates a deep-anchored sense of self. She offers a natural, conversational rhythm that makes the ebb and flow of SIMBI drift through your headphones like a great night out. The more you sink into this record, the more she sounds like your smartest mate whispering commentary on the movie or the guys at the bar directly into your ear.
Simz is a rapper/commentator who thrills with the political and spills with the personal. So against the cinematic brass of “Introvert” she spits cold, venomous lines about “mothers burying sons, young boys playing with guns”. Then against the smoky-smooth retro-soul loop of “Two Worlds Apart” she hisses: “Drama, drama, drama… please don’t tell my mama I been smokin’ marijuana…” Later, she throws a whole London borough’s worth of glottal stops at a relationship confessional that builds to a breathless: “You use me/ confuse me/ It’s truly/ a movie…”
Her Britishness gets a witty treatment on “The Rapper Who Came To Tea”, which plays with Judith Kerr’s classic opening with a crisp RP intro: “What does a girl like you want in a place like this?” Producer Inflo (a childhood friend) doubles down on the theatrical orchestration, adding to the sense that you’re listening to history in the making. Here, her emotional intensity is paired with a harp and a Nineties hip-hop beat on “I Love You, I Hate You”, then flirts with both grime and Eighties influences (think Nicki Minaj’s “Beez in the Trap” meets Stormzy) on standout “Rollin’ Stone”. “Protect My Energy” is a twinkling Eighties pop jam, while “Point” and “Kill” ft Obongjayar is a deep rolling, organic Afroblues groove that swells and flares with luxurious brass as it progresses. “Can’t stop me, ahh!” Simz sings over ululations and organs on the following track, “Fear No Man”. Who’d want to stop this woman? She's an aural delight.