LABEL : AGE 101 MUSIC
ALBUM IN A SENTENCE : IF IT GAVE NOTHING ELSE, 2021 WAS THE YEAR THAT GAVE US SOMETIMES I MIGHT BE INTROVERT
Start with the obvious. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is an instant classic album.
If you take a definition of a classic album as a work that commands high thought, attention and praise transcendent of genre, then from the opening fanfare of ‘Introvert’ onwards, Little Simz’ explosive new album stands as tall as anything released this year.
Listening to the album, I’m reminded of a quote from Larry Smith, the producer of RUN-DMC. He said:
“In the early days, rap wasn’t as popular as it is now, but the message was the same. All rap is saying one thing, ‘I am somebody’. That hasn’t changed.’
I am somebody. For male rappers, like most men, that definition of being somebody is framed in the definite article; the ‘the’, the O.G., the hustler, the boss, the greatest, the player. It’s not just that ‘your nothin’ without a woman.’ Maybe it takes a female rapper like Simz to be able to hold the tension between ‘I am somebody’ and ‘Sometimes…’
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is an exploration of the nuances and contradictions of what it means to be human, to be somebody, the ways in which ‘the fight between the yin and yang’s a fight you never win.’ At times, Little Simz is a colossus; she is fire and bravado, with the poetic vision to paint a vivid state of the nation portrait. But there is an inner voice as well. Sometimes, the conversation of the inner and outer projections of self is captured by actress Emma Corrin’s contributions to the album. Over different tracks, but most powerfully in ‘Gems’, her voice returns as a kind of Mary Poppins wisdom dispenser, complete with clipped received pronunciation. Ambiguities swirl and rise to the surface like the harmonies of the choir in the background. Is Corrin’s voice an inspiration or a duplicitous taskmaster pinning Simz to an unrealistically high standard? What does it feel like to be black when the voices inside your head sound white? Sometimes I Might Be Introvert explores these kind of issues with a congruent honesty and powerful intelligence.
Musically, the album is futureproof. Inflo’s production reinforces his status as an essential producer of our moment. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert holds the same kind of scope and ambition, an equal lushness and generosity to 70s Marvin Gaye. However, it also deals in the kind of theatricality that make this listener wonder if Scott Walker had made a rap album would it sound like this? Little Simz has all bases covered. She is battle-blazing fierce on ‘Rolling Stone’ and the afrobeat influences on ‘Point And Kill’ and ‘Fear No Man’ rock. Everything works on this album.
Soulful, multi-layered and audacious, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert deserves all the praise that can be lavished upon its flow and cadance. In a music culture that is busily curating its canon, commemorating and enshrining this or that 25th, 30th, or 50th anniversary, Little Simz is an artist birthing excellence, witnessing to the possibilities and truths an album can encompass in 2021.