“I think I need a standing ovation/ Over 10 years in the game, I’m impatient.” So says Little Simz halfway through her new album, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. Indeed, with a decade under her belt, Simz has made music that is consistently surprising and rewarding — she deserves applause. On her fourth full-length, Simz has made her most accomplished album to date. Introvert is heady and dense and restless — a masterwork, one might say, the definitive document of the musician also known as Simbiatu Abisola Abiola Ajikawo.
On her new album, Simz takes stock of the ways her desire to be an artist has shaped her life — how it’s left her feeling disconnected but also invigorated. She puffs herself up a bit, understandably, and she also pays tribute to the community that raised her and the long lineage of those that came before her. She expresses her alternating frustration and elation with the creative process. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert jumps around from idea to idea with the confidence of someone who has a lot of ambition. It’s clear that Simz wants to be an important voice, and in many ways she’s succeeded. But throughout, Simz wonders exactly why she wants to “make it,” occasionally doubles back and casts doubt on herself and her own abilities. “I think I’m amazing. Honestly, respectfully, I think I’m very very talented. I know I am,” she recently said in an interview. “But I also wanted to pose the question: Why is legacy important? I want to be a legend, but sometimes I don’t know why. There are all these people on the ground doing real work: the teachers, the healers, the preachers. So why do we admire the people in the public eye so much?”
These thoughts exist on record, too: “Why the desperate need to be remembered?/ Everybody knowing what you’ve done/ How far you’ve come/ I’m guilty, it’s a little self-centered.” There’s ego involved in being a musician and Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is the work of someone trying to figure out the balance between “Simz the artist and Simba the person,” as she says on one track. “One day I’m wordless, next day I’m a wordsmith/ Close to success but to happiness I’m the furthest,” she raps on the album’s stunning opener, “Introvert,” amid militaristic drum patter and horn blasts that portend a grand arrival, an appropriate introduction to an album that’s teeming with different sounds and textures.
It’s Simz’s most personal album yet but also her most removed, in the sense that it’s cinematic and surreal and overwhelming. There are songs about her complicated relationship with her family; there are a lot of songs about the pitfalls of gaining even a modicum of celebrity and the stressors that entails. For Sometimes I Might Be An Introvert, Simz has once again teamed up with her childhood friend and longtime collaborator Inflo, who most recently (purportedly) has been the mastermind behind the recent run of albums from the mysterious collective Sault. (Simz popped up on one of those, NINE, earlier this year.) Previous iterations of Little Simz have included 2016’s Stillness In Wonderland, a Lewis Carroll-inspired fantasia, and the scrappy and sinewy GREY Area, which came out in 2019. The Simz we get on Introvert is the axis of a world that’s gorgeous and fully-realized — smokey lounge songs and free-wheeling jazz blurts and sounds that sound like samples but are usually not samples. (A notable exception is a well-utilized Smokey Robinson sample on “Two Worlds Apart.”)
At 19 tracks and 65 minutes, Introvert is a lot to take in. But there’s a little bit of everything to keep it sounding fresh. There are sweeping orchestral tracks, songs that almost sound like Simz is rapping over a James Bond theme. There are hard songs, like “Rollin’ Stone” and the tinny and insulated “Speed,” similar to what she was doing on last year’s lockdown-inspired Drop 6 EP. She pulls from her Nigerian heritage on the back half of the album, recruiting Obongjayar for the sweltering “Point And Kill.” There are interludes narrated by the actress Emma Corrin, best known for portraying Lady Diana in The Crown. These interludes are many, little snippets that sound like a Disney Broadway musical and present Corrin has a sort of fairy godmother figure, some character that would blab your ear off in Kingdom Hearts. She urges Simz to realize her full potential. “A question if I may: What’s a girl like you want in a place like this?” she asks on one. “You see, I’ve seen many come and go in my lifetime/ Those that last have given up, made sacrifices to be here/ Do you have the willingness to do the same?/ Or better yet, what’s the price that’s worth your freedom?”
Little Simz is occupied with these questions and more on Sometimes I Might Be An Introvert. She slips from micro to macro, worried about her aunt’s illness and the dark turn our society is taking in the same breath. She feels the weight of the world on her shoulders. “I would hate myself if I didn’t at least try for this,” she raps on “I Love You, I Hate You.” “What’s at stake is bigger than me/ Blood, tears, how it stains, can’t rid it with ease/ What we have in common is our pain/ We’re given the keys/ To unlock what it takes to fight for what we believe in.” On “How Did You Get Here,” she traces her own rise and the dedication it took to get to where she is now: “Sometimes I sit and I wonder/ I’m the version of me I always imagined when I was younger/ All albums I studied/ Learning bout flow and cadence/ I sit and listen to my old shit like damn all it took was patience.” Simz has worked hard and now she wants to reap the rewards of her persistence.
Simz is a magnetic presence — when she’s locked in, she commands attention like few others. But she can also float into the background when that’s what the song necessitates. On Sometimes I Might Be An Introvert, she allows herself to blend in a little more, as one part of a larger whole. It’s a choice that fits the album’s epic scope, a tour de force in which Simz is both the ringleader and the main event. She’s at the center of something really spectacular here — less a firebrand and more of a slow sizzle.
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is out 9/3 via Age 101.
Other albums of note out this week:
• Drake’s Certified Lover Boy
• Iron Maiden’s Senjutsu
• Big Boi and Sleepy Brown’s The Big Sleepover
• David Grubbs and Ryley Walker’s A Tap On The Shoulder
• F.S. Blumm and Nils Frahm’s 2X1=4
• Spirts Having Fun’s Two
• Jhay Cortez’s Timelezz
• DJ Seinfeld’s Mirrors
• David Ferguson’s Nashville No More
• Manic Street Preachers’ The Ultra Vivid Lament
• Meatbodies’ 333.
• SUUNS’ The Witness
• Lady Gaga’s Chromatica remix album Dawn Of Chromatica
• Imagine Dragons’ Mercury — Act 1 EP
• P.E.’s The Reason For My Love EP
• Julien Baker’s Little Oblivion Remixes EP