Little Simz’ Impressive ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’ Is Hip-Hop High Art

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In all the noise and chaos of the rollouts for Drake and Kanye West’s new albums, it might have been easy to miss the release of one of the best albums of the year. That’s a shame, because while one of the more infuriating debates surrounding those albums was their lack of female voices, Little Simz’ new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert should have been sufficient to satisfy any desire for a feminine presence — ironically, as it gave ample evidence that a woman, by herself, can be enough.

That may have been its goal all along. Simz elucidates the internal world of a woman pursuing her dream of rap stardom in defiance of her own discomfort at the idea of fitting into a world where women aren’t always welcome. She does this by way of narrative skits peppered throughout which highlight the introversion suggested by the album’s title; Simz is no star-chaser or glory hound, prompting one of the characters in the interludes, a character that seems to reflect Simz’ inner voice to question why she’s even here. It’s a question that I think every artist has wrestled with — or at least, one that perhaps they should.

Simz is also not a shrinking violet either. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is her fourth album, building on the critical acclaim and momentum of her highly-praised 2019 project, Grey Area. On that album, she showed a propensity and a gift for both clear-eyed introspection and sharp observation. Here, she refines those skills, offering broad-ranging commentary and experienced insights on the world’s perceptions of Black women and her own defiant reactions to them.

On songs such as “Woman” featuring Cleo Sol, Simz lists women by nationality and occupation, offering a counterpoint to the often negative stereotypes that exist in the mainstream hip-hop world. In the interlude “Gems,” she details those struggles in conversation with the fairy godmother-esque inner voice (played by Diana, Princess of Wales actress Emma Corrin) both encouraging her and interrogating her doubts. “But understand you’re human,” she advises. “Be proud. Your light will shine in the darkest hour. Pressure makes diamonds.”

“Standing Ovation” continues this line of questioning but adds a boisterous dose of braggadocio, reminding the audience that Little Simz is one of rap’s foremost technicians as well. A beat switch reflects the duality of womanhood, swinging between the extroverted confident delivery of a traditional rapper and the somewhat muted, but never dimmed, introverted calm at the center of the storm. The latter is a swirling, shimmering instrumental breakdown, allowing Simz to pause and reflect on the personal sacrifices it takes to earn the boasts.

Throughout the album, Simz tries on different styles, inhabiting each with a calm confidence born of her hard-won self-possession. On “Point And Kill” she executes afro-pop as assuredly as Nigerian native guest artist Obongjayar, keeping the vibe every bit as strong on “Fear No Man.” Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is a sweeping experiment that operates with an astonishing level of sonic breadth, but it never loses its sense of structure and direction. Simz is completely in control, keeping the melange of sounds and styles from ever feeling as chaotic as Kanye’s Donda or artificial as Drake’s Certified Lover Boy. When she chooses to address complex parental relationships on “I Love You, I Hate You,” it’s with a grace that neither has ever completely mastered.

It’s cozy and cohesive, more revealing than either of the aforementioned, but also much more genuine and honest. Simz is speaking from her experience but speaking for so many women who might feel voiceless in the current context of hip-hop, where spectacle seems to outweigh substance. Don’t get it twisted; Sometimes I Might Be Introvert takes some big swings too, but it never lets go of its message for the sake of an impressive stroke at expanding its sound. Simz has evolved, album by album, into the kind of artist who can push boundaries and remain both relatable and universal at the same time. It’s a balancing act that so many artists could take lessons from as hip-hop pursues its contemporary aspirations at making “high art,” because Simz already is.

Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is out now via AWAL Digital Limited and AGE 101. Get it here.