Favorite Tracks: “Two Worlds Apart,” “I Love You, I Hate You,” “I See You,” “Fear No Man,” “How Did You Get Here”
British rapper Little Simz brings an ambitious premise to her new album SOMETIMES I MIGHT BE INTROVERT, her approach cleverly telegraphed in the title’s qualifiers. This is an album about the push and pull of introversion, presented with grandeur and confidence that belies the uncertain subject matter, and the result is frequently stunning in its execution. Simz surfaces an impressive range of emotions across the project, picking apart her personal relationships to fame, family, doubt, violence and belief across a compelling 65 minutes. It’s nearly impossible to sustain momentum over that length of time, and there are certainly lulls to be expected on an album that kicks in the door with maximum theatricality on “Introvert,” which features rhymes like “The kingdom’s on fire / Blood of the young messiah.” That said, the strength of SOMETIMES I MIGHT BE INTROVERT is in just how much it goes for more of a one-woman stage show complete with orchestral accompaniment and gilded spoken-word interludes than a mere album. Ambition and execution in harmony on this level is something few rappers are attempting these days, and even fewer beyond Kendrick Lamar are succeeding at.
The production on this album is some of the most expansive I’ve heard in a long time. Powerful percussion, vocal harmonies from a choir, and brilliantly emotive sections of brass and strings give many tracks impressive sonic heft, like on “Speed” and “The Rapper That Came To Tea – Interlude.” If forced to select a high point, look no further than “I Love You, I Hate You”, a triumph of a track that sees Simz dance in and out of an expertly chopped sample as a means of working through her contentious, evolving relationship with her father. Her lyrics are thoughtful and incisive, talking to herself as often as she speaks directly to him, struggling to reconcile her love with her anger and disappointment. The pacing is enthralling and it culminates in a goosebump-inducing close with Simz rapping, “What you choose to avoid will probably appear in your dreams / I’m not forgiving for you, man I’m forgiving for me” as strings crescendo behind her. It’s cathartic and epic and one of the most affecting moments I’ve heard all year.
Elsewhere the production morphs; the African and Caribbean influences on the wonderful tandem of “Point and Kill” and “Fear No Man” anchor the less bombastic, groovier back-half of the album. Amidst the weighty themes and inner struggles addressed with such earnestness across other tracks, “Fear No Man” is also a moment of steel drum-backed levity, as Simz indulges in some classic rap braggadocio. Her barbs are playful and precise: “Put my mother on cover of GQ / you can’t relate ‘cause that’s something G’s do,” or “Still, your favourite artist couldn’t even step close / Heard thеy want my crown, but I ain’t never stressеd though / ‘Cause to your career, that would be detrimental.” “Rolling Stone” sets out to be a similarly chest-thumping affair, but fumbles great early momentum by settling into a less impactful, minimal flow. That’s a surprise given how little Simz settles in total; her flows are elastic and carefully constructed, so she never sounds out of sync with the beat.
SOMETIMES I MIGHT BE INTROVERT is immediately admirable as a pure example of effort and ambition, full of beautiful instrumentation, uplifting themes and self-examination. The care and grace displayed in execution is evident upon additional listens, each rewarding the listener with new moments to appreciate. The amount Simz gives of herself in her writing and arrangements, and how good most of it sounds, is what makes the album great, confident in its presentation, and nuanced enough to be relatable.