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Culture Shock

NO THANK YOU Album Review

Following her critically acclaimed 2021 release, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, British rapper Simbiatu Ajikawo, better known as Little Simz, had mountainous expectations for her next release. With her latest album, NO THANK YOU, she has more than matched them. Rapping unapologetically as ever, with her characteristic North London accent, Simz continues asserting herself as one of hip hop’s most dynamic voices. Simz tackles a number of societal issues in an album that sees her expand on themes she’s introduced over the course of her growing discography. She gives listeners a window into the life of a black woman trying to make a living in the music industry. It’s a business dominated at the top by white music execs, and Simz describes her internal conflict between wanting to stay true to herself and being asked to cater to a white audience. She raps on the lead track “Angel,” “How you go against the same system you were colonized by? Brother, your whole ting compromised.” Lyrically, NO THANK YOU is extremely dense. Each song on the 10-track LP packs a punch, leading to a 50-minute runtime. But, despite its heavy lyricism, Simz’s delivery is charismatic and confident and never feels preachy.

Musically, frequent collaborators Inflo (production) and Cleo Sol (vocals) contribute to a rich and orchestral experience. Inflo has worked with Simz on her past three LPs and has helped her musical identity blossom. Almost every track features Simz’s syncopated rapping on top of gorgeous, layered instrumentals with a contrastingly typical boom-bap beat. The boisterous “Gorilla” sees a grimy bass track take front-and-center, whereas the sensitive “Control” features only a grand piano with no drums. Cleo Sol adds her silky-smooth vocals to the backgrounds and hooks of much of the album. “X” sees Sol take the lead on a lengthy vocal outro in one of her biggest roles. What might be most striking about NO THANK YOU is the choral motif. Most tracks feature a backing choir, taking influence from the soul and especially gospel music. It adds a softness to her often gritty vocal performances and makes this album even more of a fascinating listen. Any fan of Little Simz should be over the moon for NO THANK YOU, and it serves as a worthy introduction to any newcomer.

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