Following her Mercury Prize-winning album, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, Little Simz is back. Collaborating with Cleo Sol and Inflo again on No Thank You, Simz has created another work of art full of grandeur and introspection. Reflecting on the music industry, her experience as a Black woman, mental health and ridding herself of toxic people, No Thank You is a 10 track extraordinaire.
Little Simz has always been known for her remarkable bars. She cites 'Two Worlds Apart' off her critically acclaimed album 'Sometimes I Might Be Introvert': "Yo, we two worlds apart, you know, lady, lady, lady" as "Lady, lady, lady," is how she starts that song. She follows that up with 'Flo and I comin' like DeNiro and Scorsese', referencing Inflo, the driving force of music collective Sault, who's also the sole producer on this album and her last album. The two of them are known for making magic together, like Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese. On 'Gorilla' she's got clever wordplay that takes shape in the form of "I know the streets will love it like I brought Mike Skinner", she knows No Thank You is going to be well loved by everyone, 'the streets' is essentially slang for the public but it's also the name of a band that Mike Skinner is the frontman of.
'No Merci' is already a triple entendre on it's own, a homophone for 'No Mercy' and also the word 'merci' is 'thank you' in French, making this the subtle title track of the album. On this track she warns aspiring artists, "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" meaning not to get blindsided by record labels trying to sweeten the deal as they are life altering and that a possible outcome is doing free tours which are at detriment to the artist. 'Heart On Fire' has her referencing Kanye where she spits, "Dropped out of college, still, I made it through the wire", cleverly mentioning his album The College Dropout and the the single on it titled 'Through the Wire'. Lastly, on 'Control', she references the lyrics on ABRA's 'Fruit' - "Don't listen to a word they say / I'm in your head, like, every day."
Laden with interpolations, Little Simz is always paying homage to the legends that came before her, while sprinkling samples in there too. The drum loop on 'Angel' is interpolated from 'Ghetto Reporter' by Nas. That grand opening on 'Gorilla' samples it's melody from Jurassic 5's 'Concrete Schoolyard', turning its keys into trumpets. 'Gorilla' grabs its funky bassline from 'Summer Breeze by Ramsey Lewis as she interpolates 'Who Am I? (Sim Simma)' by Beenie Man, putting her own flair on the dancehall classic as she raps, "Sim Simma, who got the keys to my bloodclaat Bimmer?" The drum pattern is interpolated from 'Buggin' Out' by A Tribe Called Quest and 'How Many Mics' by Fugees, and the ascending trumpets in the beginning loosely follow the bass on Kendrick's 'N95' during the beat switch in the middle. In 'No Merci' you can hear how Kendrick's flow on 'Savior' has inspired hers while the kickdrum loop taps into a similar melody and the outro carries the sentiments of 'Savior' too. Though it's a little bit faster, 'Heart On Fire' uses the same drum pattern as 'We Cry Together' by Kendrick Lamar and Taylour Page. The grooves of 'Who Even Cares' are supplied by Daft Punk's 'Beyond', the kaleidoscope of soft and synthy funk-filled guitar on 'Who Cares' gets its grooves from Daft Punk's 'Beyond'. igv 'Sideways' samples Cleo Sol's song by the same name, her vocals are pitched up, her riffs and runs giving the track warmth and soul. At times the track is looped, creating this wonderful overlap of vocal layers from Cleo Sol's original track.
The production on the album is entirely from the mastermind of Inflo. The drums on every track always feel steady, perhaps a nod to getting closer to peace of mind. The orchestral vibe that SIMBI had is still there, but it's much more toned down.The gospel influence is heavy throughout, especially on tracks like 'X', 'Broken', 'Sideways' and 'Control'. We need a moment for those trumpets of triumph on 'Gorilla'. 'Angel' has a more stripped back approach as Inflo wraps the listener up in these lush but mellow tones. Cleo Sol's background vocals are dotted throughout the album, her vocal stacks and chops melt into the production giving it a layer of rich soul. Meanwhile her smooth, dulcet vocals shine through on tracks like 'Angel' and 'Who Even Cares'. Speaking of 'Angel', it's worth noting that Little Simz says "Give me a second, and let the beat ride" and the beat strips down to its drums before she resumes, showing Inflo's attention to detail.
No Thank You is the tranquil afterthought of SIMBI, the calm after the storm. Her bars are magnificent and eloquent, bouncing between her experiences and clever quips. As she counts from one to ten, the album is a breath of fresh air. It feels like an open letter to her mental health and the demons she faces. When she gets in the studio with Inflo and Cleo Sol (who are married by the way, no surprise there as her vocals fit his production like a warm embrace from a loved one), you know a masterpiece is at hand. Little Simz never puts out anything short of outstanding and this was no exception.
Review written by Kat Friar