By Alex Cooper
“Never cared about being immortalised”, asserts Little Simz in the first bar of her surprise fifth album, NO THANK YOU. After every publication has evaluated their albums of the year, including ours, and you’ve all shown your friends your Spotify Wrapped, here enters a new challenger. Widely regarded as one of the most exciting artists internationally, it’s hard to argue that Simz’s music hasn’t been immortalised now, whether she cares for the label or not.
Little Simz has been doing great things for many years. From producing the most incredible live verse of Gorillaz’s Clint Eastwood in 2017, something of an inter-rapper challenge, to becoming the first woman to sell out a three-date residency at Brixton Academy, her talent and work ethic has propelled her to being one of the best in her field, and indeed outside her field in wider musical discourses.
NO THANK YOU comes from the magnificent artist-producer duo of Simz and Inflo. This is the same team that masterminded Mercury Prize and BRIT Award winning album, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (SIMBI). The two again collaborate with Cleo Sol, having worked extensively with both on Little Simz records as well as the SAULT project. Sol holds six writing credits across the ten songs, adding further quality to the killer partnership.
The beauty of NO THANK YOU is in its minimalism. If SIMBI was her manifesto, this is her making policies. It is a continuation of SIMBI, but from a much more overtly angry place; it sets out to address specific themes and leaves nothing uncovered. Opening song ‘Angel’ is like a cousin to previous opener ‘Introvert’, except cries of “I’m a black woman and I’m a proud one” (‘Introvert’) are swapped for the deadpan delivery of “I refuse to be on a slave ship, give me all of your masters and lower your wages” (‘Angel’). Simz never had anything to prove, but now having artistic independence she refuses to compromise and continues to make the art she always has.
Brimming with packed wordplay, NO THANK YOU deals with uncomfortable themes with detail and gravitas. Little Simz represents her struggle across the ten songs like a lawyer would represent a client. She muses over contracts, artistic autonomy, and times in which she has been taken for granted. You always pay attention when Simz is speaking; whether that be on the epic and heart-wrenching ‘Broken’, to the heat of double-entendre ‘No Merci’, both rejecting and not compromising.
The instrumentals are adjacent to the sound that we have grown accustomed to from Little Simz. Neither better, nor worse, just a display of the many multitudes she contains. ‘Heart on Fire’, nestled in the middle of the track listing, draws anecdotal evidence of interactions with the world of music. Within this brutal evidence holds inalienable truths about the uglier side of the music industry, which Simz expresses with her trademark eloquence and outstanding technical ability. She shouldn’t have to address these problems as they shouldn’t happen in the first place. But, through beautiful artistry, it puts the requirement for a better era in sharp focus. It’s our job to take notice and change the discourse.
The timing of the project means that NO THANK YOU won’t feature in any aforementioned album lists. However, the quality and importance of the album means that it undercuts the whole evaluation of the year in music. To draw comparisons with Radiohead, if the expansive and dominating SIMBI is her OK Computer, this is Little Simz’s In Rainbows. A beautiful, unexpected collection of songs that maps out her career progression and arguably creates her most cohesive album to date.
These are not summer anthems, but they offer a thought-provoking and, at many points, warm listen. Whether that be the party-starting hits of ‘101 FM’ and ‘Point and Kill’, or captivating bodies of work such as NO THANK YOU, Little Simz is a true master of her craft. And, most crucially, she is unapologetically making the music she wants to outside of external pressures. Her discography indicates the music is just going to keep getting better.
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