Boundaries are important. Eradicate fear. Honor your truth and feelings. Emotion is energy in motion. These affirmations are the guiding narrative of No Thank You, the fifth studio album from Little Simz. In the newly released accompanying 10-minute short film, directed by by Gabriel Moses, the British rapper uses five songs from the album to bolster the same powerful declarations.
Throughout the film, Simz settles into a lead role surrounded by other Black performers to not only rejects praise provided through external validation, but also reject the harmful myth of the strong Black women that more often than not erases the sympathy of human struggle by discrediting emotions that don’t line up with the preconceived narrative prescribed to them.
“Everybody’s so obsessed with the CEO/She probably got the most troubles that she’ll never disclose/Dealin’ with the dark by takin’ the white to the nose,” she raps on “Broken.” “Poker face in action, continuin’ with the show/Scrutinised for freein’ the truth about the system/All she wanted to do was uplift the women.” While the song plays, the camera flashes between rage-filled women, one wielding a gun, another physically trying to shake the anger from her body, and another grieving. Simz herself slamming her fists into a pool of water.
On “X,” an all-Black choir builds a barrier around Simz as she raps about division within communities. The gospel inflections of Cleo Sol’s supporting vocals close out the segment of the film driven by imagery of soldiers, including one riding through a clearing of trees on the back of a horse while their body goes up in flames.
Simz only partially runs through the opening verse for “Sideways,” but spreads her vigor across “Silhouette” and “Heart on Fire,” where she pushes back against using external perceptions to define her sense of self. On the latter, she raps: “It was never about lookin’ for results/Now every time you do something, you need an applause (My heart’s on f–)/Please keep your head on when you’re goin’ through the maze/’Cause navigatin’ the fame is something you’re never trained for.”
As the choir of voices returns for “Heart on Fire,” in the film’s most powerful scene, the camera follows Simz, donning a white gown, to the front of a mirror. There, she sits stone-faced and receives the applause of a dozen white people. “Am I anxious or am I excited?” she had just asked on the prior verse. “Am I calm or am I unbothered?”