Little Simz performing in 2018 FLICKR/ PAUL HUDSON,

NO THANK YOU, the fifth studio album from UK rapper Little Simz, is a mixed bag. The highly acclaimed Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, released just over a year ago, now stands as an even clearer creative peak at this point in the artist’s career, having been favourably compared in structure and inventiveness to Kendrick Lamar’s, To Pimp a Butterfly. This latest album feels far more casual than its predecessor. Pejoratives such as ‘throwaway’ or ‘unnecessary’ may seem a little heartless, but after the thematic urgency of Sometimes, NO THANK YOU feels like a needless step back.

It has neither the conceptual strengths of Sometimes, nor the raw edge of 2019’s Grey Area, and does not bring anything new to the table. This does not mean that the album is bad; it is, in fact, one of the better hip-hop albums of the past year. In relation to the body of work created so far by Little Simz, however, it falls short. It has a relatively short runtime of 49:56, spread out over ten tracks; most of these tracks rely heavily on sampling—largely from soul; forgivably the most overt reference Simz makes to her inspiration from Kanye. Simz modifies these samples, modernising them, in effect, and sculpts her verses around them.

“The delivery often comes across as unintentionally monotonous, even bordering on lazy”

The stuttering sample on “Angel” starts the album off fairly well; it repeats throughout the song, forming a reliable blanket of sound around which Simz can write verses. Some more variation in instrumentation would have been welcomed, especially considering that the lyrics here are rather weak: “They don’t care if your mental is on the brink of somethin’ dark / As long as you’re cutting somebody’s payslip / And sendin’ their kids to private school in a spaceship”. The delivery is often flawed across the album; Simz enjoys employing a fairly restrained delivery which, on her other albums, was usually used to great effect, but here often comes across as unintentionally monotonous, even bordering on lazy.

Little Simz: Tiny Desk (Home) ConcertNPR Music

Some bars also feel as though they could have done with a second take (listen closely to the line “What did I expect from those livin’ the corporate life?”, for instance), and the general implementation of rhyme is often obvious and forced enough to ruin the relevance of the words themselves.

“The samples, flow, and lyricism complement each other almost perfectly”

“Gorilla” again has a great instrumental. The lyrics, however, often distract from this; the reference to Mac Miller, while no doubt well-intended, comes across as a little disingenuous. “X” is perhaps the best track on the album: finally, the samples, flow, and lyricism complement each other almost perfectly. “Heart On Fire”, however, is the first track on which the instrumental feels somewhat lacking; it almost feels cheap. Perhaps this is an intentional choice, and a tacit reference to Simz’s past practices of creating music using MacBook plugins, but, as with the Mac Miller reference, intention can only carry the track so far.


Mountain View

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The final two minutes of the track could have been cut: they form a fairly inconsequential outro which, though pretty, largely begs to be skipped. “Sideways” and “Control” both feel largely unnecessary, primarily relying on their instrumentals, but not contributing much to the album in their own right.

Simz’s utilisation of samples is definitely the strongest feature across the album. The verses, however, often fall flat; Simz’s writing game is noticeably weaker here than on her previous studio albums, and her delivery is often lacklustre. Almost every track follows the same formula, too: open with the chosen sample for perhaps ten seconds, then loop the sample for around three minutes, and write vaguely personal and political lyrics over the top. The results are often impressive, but the formula is transparent. The album also lacks the thematic cohesion of previous works: it tries to be ‘about’ too many different issues and, as a result, fails to say anything memorable at all. NO THANK YOU, generally speaking, is a good album; perhaps even a great one; but it is not a great Little Simz album.