Little Simz’s new album, Sometimes I might be introverted, opens with possibly the least restraining song about restraint ever made. He is called an ‘introvert’ and finds the London rapper ‘feelings I hold on to’, but it’s time to reveal it to a huge orchestra and choir fanfare, such as the opening credits for a Avengers movie.
“It’s me who finds strength in my introversion,” Simz says. ‘People associate it with really shy and quiet, but I’m also very confident. I have never felt the need to be the hardest person in the room. I know that my presence holds weight. ”
Unfortunately, I can not test the accuracy of the statement. True to the theme of the album, our encounter gradually became more introverted in format. A personal meeting was canceled when Simz fell ill, so an alternative Zoom meeting was arranged. At the allotted hour, I am greeted by a secluded hello from an empty rectangle on my screen. It seems that Simz prefers to have her video eliminated.
The 27-year-old, real name Simbiatu Ajikawo, is good at keeping herself to herself. Although record companies offered her shows, she decided to release her own music. Her name was one of those that received a shout-out from Stormzy during his Glastonbury headline in 2019, a moment of apotheosis for the reviving hip-hop scene in the UK. Yet she does not easily fall into his ranks. “I’m not your usual rapper,” she insisted on the 2013 mix early in her career. Blank cloth.
“I always felt I had something else to offer,” she says, speaking from her home in London. ‘I’m in my own job and I’ve been there a very long time. I’m going to keep at it. ”
Sometimes I might be introverted is her fourth studio album. Its grammatically peculiar title comes from her nickname Simbi, which is spelled out by the first letters of the words. This is the follow-up to 2019s Gray area, a breakthrough record nominated for the Mercury Award for Best Album of the Year. Her new one makes the ante.
Almost double the length of Gray area, the lyrics are a dense mix of memoirs, social commentary, Afrocentrism, self-help and fantasy. The music includes cinematic orchestration, 1970s Afrobeat, classical soul and hard-boiled rap. Numerous voices are heard, from an example of Smokey Robinson singing and children’s songs to spoken word appearances by The crown star Emma Corrin. Through it all, the deliberate figure of Little Simz moves, a seriously set focal point at the microphone.
She cites a list of revered rap albums from the 1990s and 2000s as inspiration, a major effort by the likes of Biggie Smalls, Tupac Shakur and Jay-Z. Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is another (Simz supports the American singer on tour in 2016 and 2017). “I just like how they put together albums, how they built and built them,” she says.
Rap’s usual self-reinforcement was especially driven in her. “Know that it’s in my DNA to be wonderful,” she rapped on her album. Over the course of her career, she has compared herself in verse to Moses, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Picasso and Shakespeare. These examples are all men. However, the idea of Simz as a woman crashing a boys’ club is rejected. “I do not know everything,” she says as a female rapper.
Sometimes I might be introverted leaves a look behind her armored sense of confidence. Worries and hidden feelings are allowed to share a different kind of trust. “Why the desperate need for applause?” she raps at some point. “I secretly hope I’m done with the pen,” she revealed elsewhere in a moment of confidence.
“Sometimes, especially as a black woman, the story is that you have to be strong, that you can’t show weakness or fear,” she says of the album’s personal direction, with songs about her father’s absence from her childhood. and her difficult relationship with an older sister. “Actually, I’m just a human being. I need to open up more and express myself and not be afraid of it. ”
Simz grew up in Islington, North London, the youngest of four children of parents who came to the UK from Nigeria. Her mother did most of the family work; her father was sporadically present and became increasingly absent as she got older. She loved English and creative writing at school. A favorite movie was Matilda, the adaptation of Roald Dahl’s story of an autodidact girl with special powers.
“I was definitely a go-getter from a young age,” she says. “I understood hard work. Hard work beats talent. Talent does not work hard. I was super focused. ”
She started rapping in her early teens. At the time, she was singing her voice with a £ 20 microphone attached to the back of a computer. Now she makes songs with an orchestra recorded at Abbey Road Studios. “[It’s] just amazing to watch, ”she says. “Very surreal.”
Her new album was made with her regular collaborator, producer Inflo. Otherwise known as Dean Josiah Cover, he is a childhood friend who also likes to keep to himself. He is behind the elusive band Sault, which itself has released a series of highly acclaimed albums without giving its members interviews or appearing in public. Black British identity, racism and Black Lives Matter activism are recurring themes that include an intriguing style of diasporic music from different sounds, geographical areas and periods.
Simz has appeared on a number of Sault songs, including this year’s album Nine. Race is an important theme in Sometimes I might be introverted, too. “I’m a black and a proud woman,” she says on Introvert. Another song tells the story of a cousin who was stabbed and spent weeks in a coma, the victim of the knife crime epidemic that left black Londoners uneven. “It’s all part of my experience. I’m just telling my truth, ”she says.
In one song, she refers to the fact that she had to work twice as hard to succeed because of the color of her skin. The standards she sets for herself are of the highest variety, a form of pressure that must have the potential to exhaust as well as motivate. “Yes, sometimes,” she says. ‘But it’s just me against me, so in that sense, no. I race against myself. I think I found my way to deal with it. I know when I need to turn off. I understand how I can make things work for me. ”
‘Sometimes I might be introverted‘is now available on Age 101 Music