After her past two albums opened up to universal acclaim, it might seem like the only way is up for an artist like Little Simz. But soon after the release of Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, the reality of being a serious player operating outside a major label began to seem more apparent.
In April last year, Little Simz unexpectedly canceled her US Tour and released a statement revealing she would’ve had to “pay for everything encompassing my live performances out of my own pocket and touring the U.S. for a month would leave me in a huge deficit.”
On the opening track to her latest album, NO THANK YOU, she lets go of the burdening weight that came after facing trouble from her previous label. Appropriately titled “Angel,” the song is orchestral and sounds as if you’re at the gates of Heaven. In the context of her career, perhaps Simz is at a point where she feels like her career is close to ending before it gets the chance to take off. Fortunately, NO THANK YOU proves she’s only getting better.
Simz reunites with frequent collaborators Inflo and Cleo Sol (the latter singing like a guardian angel leading Simz through the pitfalls described on the album), where the three tread similar ground musically while expanding on the sound they’ve established. “Gorilla” opens up with triumphant horns grand enough to shame any middle school marching band before moving into a beat that The Fugees could’ve hopped on in the 90s. From the get-go, Simz’s flows over the beat with gems like “Before I start swingin’, that man’s gonna need a warnin’ / Red light whenever I’m recordin’ / Red light on the forehead of the informant,” proving she’s ready for war.
Compared to the opener, Simz is much more laidback and in higher spirits, unafraid of calling out everyone who counted her out. “No Merci” similarly does little to pull Simz’ punches on lines like “Everybody here getting money off my name / Irony is, I’m the only one not getting paid.”
Throughout the album, Simz details her troubles in a way that outlines what happened without giving specifics. But from the sound of it, too many people got in the course of her ambitions. Ambitious as ever, she reaches heights far surpassing previous highs on tracks “Silhouette” and “X.” Unsurprisingly, both songs feature outstanding production from Inflo, who knows how to switch it up without sacrificing his unique sound crafted specifically for Simz. “Silhouette,” in particular, is a contender for his best, pulling from groups like Deltron 3030 while pulling from gospel music, making for a dynamic instrumental suitable for Simz and her rhymes.
At the very least, the effort is much deeper than just creating a trap beat and having the MC hop on for one take. Simz, instead, puts in the effort to seek out creative and expansive instrumentals you can’t hear from anyone else.
As personal and introspective as she is, it’s “Control” where Simz gets the most intimate out of any song in her career. Backed by a piano and a beautiful contribution from Kojo, the song is perhaps her first time directly touching on the subject of love. While she’s rapped in length about self-love on previous standouts like “I Love You, I Hate You,” they’re nothing quite like “Control,” which allows Simz to open up about what it’s like to devote herself to that special somebody. In all the right places, it’s equal parts sultry and warm, comforting and lively, and entirely at home.
On every one of her albums, Simz always seems to be going through a breakthrough. There’s not one released over the past six years where she sounded like she was slowing down. That level of progression and evolution is scarce, especially in hip-hop. In a fair world, artistry of her caliber should guarantee a spot among the greats, enjoying the success that comes from creating an album as dense and expansive as NO THANK YOU.
After years of dealing with suits and doubters alike, here’s to hoping Simz can continue making music for a wider audience. And if not, we can at least guarantee her next album will, unsurprisingly, rank high among every album prior. Here’s to hoping for a US Tour in the near future.
Words: David Sosa
NO THANK YOU is available on all streaming platforms. Make sure you keep up with any future music releases and tour dates directly from her website and follow Little Simz on her Instagram and Twitter.