Little Simz just struck gold, and now she’s ready for an encore. Coming less than eight weeks after she won the Mercury prize for her brilliant 2021 album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, her latest full-length release, No Thank You, was released seemingly out of the blue, with little in the way of promotion. Once you start delving beneath the surface, it becomes clear why this album may have been released without much fanfare.
In a moment when so many artists are releasing music just to keep up with trends or create something that will instantly go viral, this is the rare project that sounds like it was made because its maker needed to make it. Little Simz has a lot to get off her chest on No Thank You, offering a fascinating and fragile glimpse inside the mind of an artist at a crossroads in their career while delivering a bitter, bold piece of work with astute insights into mental health issues and the ugly side of the music industry.
Though she doesn’t directly cite her own experiences as the basis for the album, many of the subjects raised by Simz’s lyrics seem deeply personal. While much of her previous album focused on introversion, in this one she speaks more about mental health, both her own struggles with it and how people in power abuse it. Much of it also seems to address her recent split with her manager and how she felt like he was trying to take advantage of her.
The album’s lyrics are punchy, powerful and witty. For example, Simz compares signing to a major record label to being a slave: “I refuse to be on a slave ship / Give me all my masters / And lower your wages.” She’s always been open about dealing with depression and other mental health issues, but on tracks like “Broken” she opens up in a more forthright way than ever before while intoning “Man, this week has been tough / I’ve been saying it for a year.” Meanwhile, Simz takes aim at the music industry on X: “Undervalued, under appreciated in the workplace, why give you my ideas in the first place?”
The album is produced by Inflo, who worked on Simz’s past two albums as well as producing for the mysterious and brilliant London act Sault. Simz’ lyrics and the beats seem to be in perfect sync with each other: lyrically, she’s at her most angry, while sonically each track matches her power note for note. The album feels like a real collaboration, with Inflo stepping back to let Simz’s lyrics take center stage – and vice versa, with the pair sharing the spotlight on many songs. Much of the album is taken up with dramatic orchestration, booming drums and backing singers. Many of the tracks conclude with lengthy and dramatic instrumental breakdowns – perhaps none more emphatically than “Silhouette” – and in these moments it’s clear that Simz is deferring to Inflo’s arrangements, which include swells of choral vocals and strings.
With No Thank You, Little Simz continues to show why she is the most skillful rapper in the UK. A powerful statement of intent, it’s reflective, intelligent without losing its edge, and a declaration of independence from all the trappings that come with fame and success. Consistently insightful, often poetic, and very personal in a way that doesn’t wear out its welcome, there are many moments where you really feel her vocal energy catching up with the full power of what she can pull from the beats and sounds she uses on this record. No Thank You feels like the product of an artist unfurling her full range.