Little Simz closed out 2022 with the release of her fifth studio album NO THANK YOU. Announced just one week before its release, the 50-minute album was subsequently accompanied by a ten-minute short film. Simz, an English rapper born to Nigerian parents, is an independent artist who released her first album in 2013. Now, at just 28 years old, she displays the poise, technical ability, and unapologetic honesty of a much more seasoned act. Backed up by choral and orchestral arrangements, she navigates her disillusionment with the music industry and money, her status as a black woman, and the value of self-worth.
The songs on this project are long-winded and introspective as opposed to the hard and punchy tracks that characterize the UK rap scene and much of her earlier work. She battles challenges on all fronts with several refrains on this album referencing her faith in God.
Throughout the whole album, Simz asks a lot of questions. In some cases, these questions are rhetorical and used to brag and in others, they are devices that help drive her narratives. On the first track, “Angel”, she asks “what did I expect from those livin’ the corporate life?” Disillusioned with the payment structure of the music industry, this idea is a recurring source of anger for Simz. “No Merci” is a double entendre; It is both the French translation of the album title and a blunt warning to others of how merciless the industry is. Simz raps “They want you rushin’ life decisions over a three-course meal / Next thing you know, you’re doin’ free tours.” These lines are especially poignant after she canceled her 2022 North American tour just months before the release of this song because of financial infeasibility.
The West African-style drums on “X” combined with the choir, strings, and horns give this track an anthemic feel. “Been beaten on, we been chewed on / But it happened years ago, so we should just move on” is an eerily familiar sentiment that many in the Black diaspora are told by others. As the track progresses though, Simz asserts the strength in her Blackness and her family, specifically mentioning her grandfather whom she was named after. “Simbi”, a shortened version of “Simbiatu”, is a nickname that only her closest family and friends call her. “Broken” is an equally emotional but more somber track. Simz goes between detailing the ways people hide their pain and uplifting those who struggle with mental health and hope. Her second verse ends with a series of positive affirmations to the listener while her third verse ends with “Why is mental health a taboo in the Black community?”.
The aptly named “Heart on Fire” is an outpouring of Simz’s thoughts and emotions. In the lines below, Simz describes how easily money corrupts just by listing a series of wants.
"Do it for the love, nothin' more Nah, maybe to cop mum a house, but nothin' more Maybe to sort my cousin out, but nothin' more Maybe I'll get the new coupe and nothin' more Fifteen to a hundred shoes, nothin' more By the time you know it, that list never stop growin' And you don't know what you even do this for"Little Simz, “Heart on Fire”
The track, and the album as a whole, are thematically reminiscent of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. In songs like “Wesley’s Theory” and “For Free (Interlude), Kendrick describes how his love of music has waned as the temptations of Lucifer and the music industry have pushed him to be a more material person just as Simz does.
Simz continues her work with producer Inflo, who has credits on every song from all of her last three albums. Similarly, Simz and Cleo Sol extend their long list of collaborations, with the singer-songwriter providing background vocals on most of the tracks.
This album reaffirms Little Simz’s status, not as one of the best female rappers or one of the best in the UK rappers, but as one of the best rappers, period. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (SIMBI), a contender for the best album of 2021, may not have been surpassed, but this is a worthy addition to an already incredible catalog of music. I feel emboldened by her words and think that the radically different production choices seriously add to the album’s value. This is lyrically dense music, but there is value in playing these songs, whether that be alone and listening through headphones or driving around with friends and bumping up the car speakers.
Adeboye Adeoye is a student at the University of Georgia studying Economics, Sociology, and Music Business. As an avid playlist maker, he always looks for connections and themes across albums and genres. He listens primarily to Hip Hop but enjoys R&B, Neo-Soul, Pop, Afrobeats, Indie, and more beyond that as well.