Little Simz is a Goddess amongst mortals. Following the release of her chart-topping, dominant album Sometimes, I Might Be Introvert (2021), the UK singer indisputably cemented herself as a premier voice within our generation.
An early retirement could have left her with a spectacular career as she released six full albums before turning 28, yet with a lingering unfinished feeling that would leave “What if?” questions circulating for years in a way that rivals only Ms. Lauryn Hill. However, she recruited a familiar friend in Inflo to produce another show-stopping album in NO THANK YOU — arriving less than a week after her surprise announcement on Instagram.
Containing 10 tracks and totaling almost 50 minutes, the duo evidently have created a masterpiece in their own right. As Hip Hop By The Numbers pointed out on Twitter, a third of the project is intros or outros, continuing a familiar concept from SIMBI as they strike the perfect balance of Simz’s lyrical prowess and Inflo’s unrivaled producing mind.
NO THANK YOU begins with a beautiful, sample-led beat as Simz embarks down a long road, bringing unparalleled levels of honesty, transparency and confidence that have consistently made her work incredibly impactful. Her very first verse on the intro track, “Angel,” sets the scene of one of the major themes of the album. Speaking out against labels and the capitalistic society we live in, she raps, “I can see how an artist can get tainted, frustrated / They don’t care if your mental is on the brink of somethin’ dark / As long as you’re cuttin’ somebody’s payslip.” The track serves almost as a warning for young artists, providing a glimpse into the far too dark reality for many that is the music industry. “Gorilla” brings out the aforementioned confidence, weaving boastful lines between ever-impressive rhyme schemes — providing more of an introduction to Simz as a person.
“Silhouette” arrives as the first moment of raw commentary on mental health as Simz not only dives deep into moments that have impacted her, but also provides ways to move forward through one’s own struggles. This message rings true in “No Merci,” an exploration of Black exploitation in the music industry, rapping, “Don’t get lost in the sauce when he talk / Take your time, be sure / They want you rushin’ life decisions over a three-course meal / Next thing you know, you’re doin’ free tours.” However, she expands further, applying it to society as a whole, rapping on the first verse, “Know you’re good at sellin’ me the n-word dream / One M might just make a n-word scream, ‘N-word, we made it’ / Gimme equity if you about it.”
“X” dives further into the Black experience as the hook repeats, “One day, you’ll love my pain.” Simz explores a variety of issues, from the political system to police to climate change, but most significantly, the constant mistreatment of Black people, especially in Simz’s home country of England. She once again hones in on the music industry on “Heart on Fire,” using her own experiences to examine her road to where she is today. The track centers around the priorities she has had at various phases of her life, following how the initial desire to buy her mom a house or help her cousin has been overshadowed by constant anxiety, singing on the hook, “My life is a blessing / But it comes with the stresses / And I can’t take it all / Just don’t let me down when I’m in the fire.”
Coming in at just under seven and a half minutes, “Broken” encapsulates everything that makes this album so sonically unique. Inflo provides sample lead, orchestral infused production as the base for Simz’s four incredible verses, while a 2-minute outro bleeds the track out. Simz describes her experiences struggling with mental health and growing up without a father — not only using this as a message to her younger self, but as a guide for the younger generation, making sure nobody ever feels alone. This is followed by the shortest track of the project, yet all of “Sideways” is devoted to one of the most crucial parts of our lives – relationships, whether that is with money, oneself, religion, partners, or anything else – and the impact they have had on Simz’s life.
The underwater tuned “Who Even Cares” sees Simz once again speak directly towards her younger self, encapsulated by the lines, “Tryna figure out where the missin’ piece to the puzzle fits / And why God has chosen you.” Her first verse takes us through a day in the life of the young college dropout, struggling with her mental health as she has to grind every day just to stay afloat.
After 45 minutes, what once seemed like a lengthy listen arrives at the closing track all too soon. “Control” leaves us with not just a love story about a partner, but about oneself, as Simz intertwines moments of realizations while telling a story of a night out, rapping, “We was walkin’ ’round the city, lookin’ at architectural designs / Doin’ shrooms in a hotel room, turnin’ off all of the lights / Gimme all of you, all of it / Smokin’ on somethin’, now the airwaves gettin’ clogged up and I think it’s love.” A 50-second outro sung by Kojo closes it out once and for all on a wistful note, singing, “Take my hand and never let it go / Promise me you’ll be here when I’m low.”
No amount of words can properly do NO THANK YOU justice. Little Simz will forever continue to amaze, creating bodies of work that are not only musically impeccable, but lyrically unforeseen, resulting in some of the most intimate, and often awakening songs you will ever hear.
Listen to ‘NO THANK YOU’ by Little Simz below!