Welcome to “New Music with Nick.” In this column, I will be reviewing some of the most notable new album releases across various genres, focusing on hip-hop, R&B and pop music. Join me in exploring the ever-shifting landscape of the streaming era.
Little Simz: “NO THANK YOU” (December 12, 2022)
Little Simz has been a top-tier rapper for quite a few years, so it’s no surprise to see that her latest project continues her streak of excellence. There’s no need to build suspense about my opinion: “No Thank You” is fantastic.
It’s limiting to say that Simbiatu Ajikawo is one of the best British rappers or one of the best female rappers — she’s simply one of the best rappers in the world right now. I feel a duty to remind people whenever I mention Little Simz because, for some reason, this fact isn’t widely recognized and appreciated.
Her newest release is a shift in style and sound but not a shift in quality. Much of the album presents a more minimalistic approach compared to her last couple of albums. At the same time, it also holds a grand, cinematic feel. The transitions, structure and sonic atmosphere lend to the feeling of watching a movie of Simz’ life play out — a feeling she is somehow consistently able to capture.
There’s no weak point in the tracklist. Every part of it portrays various emotions in a refreshing way, all while maintaining a wonderful cohesiveness. Songs like “Sideways,” “Angel,” “Broken” and “Control” provide a wonderfully soulful perspective and a more stripped-back sonic nature. Tracks like “X” and “Silhouette” establish the aforementioned cinematic feel and build the album’s intensity with their inspired performances. “Gorilla” and “No Merci” discuss important topics but with a more lighthearted and lively approach, giving the album relief from the darker and more mellow tracks. From front to back, the album plays so smoothly and builds so marvelously that it only gets better with every listen.
Little Simz has always been a very emotional and authentic rapper, but she truly takes it to another level here. Her messaging is deeply personal, but it’s done with an elegance and precision that makes it feel universally relatable. Simz tells of trials and tribulations in the music industry and in her personal life with artful writing that is in the upper echelon of the entire genre. Despite the successes and glory that the last few years have brought to her, there is also a great amount of struggle that she has been dealing with which emerges here. It can sometimes be hard to convey these topics without sounding too cliché, but Simz navigates them with effortless ease.
Producer Inflo deserves his own praise; his contribution to the album’s excellence can not be overstated. His current run as a producer is remarkable, being Little Simz’ primary collaborator over the last four years. I believe that he’s one of the most innovative and important figures in hip-hop right now, but he gets absolutely nowhere near the respect and acclaim that he deserves. Consistently crafting world-class instrumentals for Little Simz, Inflo has shown a level of creativity and artistic excellence that a lot of hip-hop (especially the mainstream) could really benefit from studying. His production style with diverse instruments, eclectic samples and refreshing structures complements Little Simz’ rapping perfectly.
Among the duo’s creations are 2019’s “Grey Area” and 2021’s “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert” (“SIMBI”), which were some of the best albums to come out in their respective years and some of the best modern hip-hop albums overall (with “SIMBI” frankly being one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time). Although “No Thank You” lacks the grandiose universe that “SIMBI” painted and the sharpness and excitement of “Grey Area,” it nonetheless captures all of the elements that make Little Simz a world-class artist.
This album represents her crucial continued personal development as an emerging hip-hop legend. All of her frustrations with the music industry are expressed with artistic excellence. There is no weak part of the album in any aspect. “No Thank You” delivers another spectacular, authentic work that serves as a reminder of Little Simz’s legendary talent.
Favorite Songs: “Broken,” “X,” “Gorilla,” “Sideways,” “Silhouette,” “Control,” “Heart on Fire,” “No Merci,” “Angel,” “Who Even Cares”
Album Score: 92/100
Check out this Spotify Playlist and like it to check out some of my favorite songs of 2022.
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective opinions, thoughts and critiques.