Photo Credit: Jack Bridgland
With Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (Or SIMBI, for short), Britain’s Simbiatu Ajikawo – A.K.A. Little Simz – provided not just the best album of 2021, but also an instant hip-hop classic. One that deserves to hold the same prestige held by the likes of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly and Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation. Effortlessly blending together Afro-beats, neo-soul, trap – and even synth-pop – while combining moments of quiet introversion with chest-pumping extroversion – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert showcases a rapper in her prime; effortlessly confident and utterly assured in who she is and how she wants to present herself.
One of SIMBI’s most enduring and endearing strengths is its utilization of a full-band sound – an unfortunate rarity in an age where rap music increasingly prioritizes “beats” over all else. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’s full-band sound offered not just an incredibly rewarding experience while listening to the studio album, but also promised a fantastic, enthralling experience when these songs were performed live.
This is a promise that Simz more than delivered on a cold December night in Wales, a little short of two weeks before Christmas. After a deceptively low-key opening from London-based rapper OTG – who also assists Simz’ main acts as part of her band – Simz enters the stage to rapturous applause. She begins her set with the fantastical and grand “Introvert” – whose declarations of “war” over horns and viscerally urgent drum-playing mean that it would not sound out-of-place playing at the climactic scene of an action film.
The career-defining “Introvert” is, somewhat jarringly, followed by one of the album’s most low-key cuts “Two World Apart”, before Simz moves onto the emotional centerpiece of her latest LP “I Love You, I Hate You” – a pointed, yet endlessly empathetic epic addressed to her estranged father. Her transitions between these three distinctly different songs speak both to the versatility of her latest full-length as well as her unrivaled talent as a live performer.
Simz’s set is dominated by songs from Sometimes I Might Be Introvert – which is hardly a bad thing given that it is Simz’s best project to date – however, the crowd’s most enthusiastic responses are often saved for the number’s from previous projects. After a false finish, where Simz walks off stage only to be brought back by the determined chants of the audience, she performs her most well-known song “Venom” – which earned social media virality earlier this year. Between the song’s exploration of personal struggle (“Life sucks and I never tried suicide // Mind’s f*cked even more than I realize”) to its evocation of righteous political anger (“Pussy, you sour // Never giving credit where it’s due ‘cause you don’t like pussy in power”), it’s easy to see what made audiences connect with this song.
It’s Simz performance of 2020’s “one life, might live”, however, that ends up being the set’s late highlight. Released at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the song is given new life live and – with the UK having begun this year in a dreary winter lockdown as the Delta variant surged – there’s something genuinely life-affirming about ending the year as part of a crowd shouting, “I got one life and I might just live it.” While Simz’ latest full-length may have been somewhat overshadowed on release week – given the highly-publicized releases from Drake and Ye (Kanye West) around the same time – with this phenomenal two-hour set she grabs the spotlight for herself and reminds us that it should have been hers all along.