2022 Mercury Prize with FREE NOW A brief look into… Little Simz’s ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’

Ahead of the 2022 Mercury Prize with FREE NOW, we’ve taken a brief look at some of the shortlisted albums.

If being shortlisted for the 2019 Mercury Prize for ‘GREY Area’ didn’t materialise into a win for Little Simz then surely her chances are even greater in 2022. A worthy winner in Dave for ‘Psychodrama’ notwithstanding, Simz’s third album was the creative curveball that escalated her from a critically adored, underrated MC to rap royalty, even if commercial returns didn’t reflect that.

But the widespread acclaim for ‘GREY Area’, which bagged Simz (real name Simbi Ajikawo) an Ivor Novello award and an NME award, laid the groundwork for her most ambitious work yet. ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’ was in gestation less than a year after the release of ‘GREY Area’. It was written and recorded between London, LA and Berlin across the COVID lockdowns of 2020, a period that proved fruitful for the – quite literally – sometimes introverted Simz who could knuckle down with few distractions.

Again enlisting her childhood friend and in-demand producer Inflo, Simz set about making a “cinematic” record that grapples with much of its predecessor’s uncertainties about one’s quarter-life. This record, though, at points embraces outside politics more overtly for the first time. On the grand, militaristic orchestral opener ‘Introvert’ Simz raps: “I’m not into politics, but I know it’s dark times / Parts of the world still living in apartheid.” The north London MC looks outward before turning inward, musing over the internal apartheid of her public and private persona (“Simz the artist or Simbi the person? / To you I’m smiling, but really, I’m hurting”).

Elsewhere on the song she spits bars on “corrupt government officials, lies, and atrocities” who are “knocking down communities to re-up on properties”. Simz might not consume current affairs voraciously but she knows that amoral policies put herself, her family, her friends and her peers in a constant stranglehold.

This isn’t to say that ‘GREY Area’ nor her earlier work ignored the political zeitgeist. On ‘LMPD’, the opener to her second album, 2016’s ‘Stillness in Wonderland’, Simz explored police brutality and BLM (“The people that are meant to be protecting us are killing us”) with her recurring collaborator, Chronixx.

‘GREY Area’ similarly had plenty to say about the West’s obsession with war intervention (‘Pressure’), gender politics (‘Boss’) and more. But ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’ better interweaves external ideas with the internal. Simz, at times, relates broader theories on race to personal circumstance (“Nothing in life comes easy and you work twice as hard ‘cause you Black / Used to think mum exaggerated ‘til the world showed me it’s fact,” she raps on ‘How Did You Get Here’) before she brings the UK’s knife crime epidemic into poignant focus when rattling off rhymes about vicious cycles and emotionally relaying her cousin’s near-death stabbing. “We eat from a tree full of forbidden fruits / We all know real criminals live in the suit,” read lines from ‘Little Q, Pt. 2’.

Better still, ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’ takes the satiating soul hooks as well as the fluid beats and basslines from ‘GREY Area’ and paints them into a more varied sonic palette. Sweeping, orchestral instrumentals with narration by The Crown’s Emma Corrin (in her Princess Diana voice) weld UK rap, R&B, ‘80s pop, Afrobeat and more into a cohesive whole that imbues the record with a regal grandeur.

Uncomfortable it may be to have a privileged, Cambridge-educated white woman speaking in platitudes about improving oneself across an album detailing the lived experiences of a Black artist, it could too be interpreted as Simz positioning herself as a queen: Corrin echoing Simz’s inner monologue purely to dramatic effect.

These spoken moments, however, are the album’s minor missteps on an otherwise astonishing collection that proves Simz has become even sharper with her pen. “I think I need a standing ovation / Over ten years in the game, I’ve been patient,” she raps confidently mid-way through the record. It’s time to make this album her crowning glory.

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Watch the 2022 Mercury Prize with FREE NOW ‘Album of the Year’ Awards Show live on BBC Four from 9pm on Thursday, 8 September 2022. There will be an exciting line-up of live performances from the shortlisted artists. Playing live are Fergus McCreadie, Gwenno, Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler, Joy Crookes, Kojey Radical, Little Simz, Nova Twins, Sam Fender, Self Esteem, Wet Leg and Yard Act. Harry Styles will be represented by a filmed live performance. The programme will culminate in the announcement of the overall winner of the 2022 Mercury Prize with FREE Now for ‘Album of the Year’.

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