A Less Than Successful Sophomore Effort
On his second solo LP release, Minneapolis’s Sims provides another insistently aggressive collection of independent hip-hop anthems. Unfortunately, many of these tracks falter, staggering on weak lyricism and unmemorable production.
Sims spends a markedly significant portion of More Than Ever proclaiming his monumental intelligence and talent; he is “too smart for the dope ones,” “too right-brained for you” and “more cognitive than dissonant,” all within the first five minutes. These claims are essentially unsubstantiated, unless one’s definition of brilliance is a laundry list of cultural references and quotations. From Radiohead to Greek mythology to Mark Twain, Sims peppers his rhymes with quick, casual shout-outs that function as hashtags more than as wit. By the time that he quotes Tom Waits outright (“small change got rained on with his own .38”), the listener almost wonders whether Sims has any moments on the record that are truly his own.
A considerable amount of the album is dedicated to boasts of success and fame–a thesis that functions more appropriately when delivered by Lil Wayne than by Sims, who currently maintains a meager 16k Facebook followers. However, another theme penetrates the framework of almost every cut on the record. Sims spends a great deal of energy and time degrading and discrediting his proverbial “haters.” As a rapper closely associated with outspoken political belief, it is odd that Sims regurgitates so many of these clichéd taunts. The listener is left confused, as critiques of extreme leftism are replaced with lines like the following: “look at the kid go/doing what they wouldn’t, doing what they couldn’t/nah!/Feet’s up, hanging out the window/everybody drinking, everybody drinking/yeah!”
Lazerbeak, a colleague of the Doomtree hip-hop collective and a long-time Sims collaborator, returns to produce More Than Ever. Here, he provides a shimmery, minimalist atmosphere, which often lacks melodic intrigue or formal structure. While the record is mixed nicely, respective frequencies pared away with expertise–kudos to Joe Mabbott–the production itself lacks panache. These rhythms and sonic territories are by no means unique, and they do little to cement this collection of songs into the listener’s awareness.
At times, Sims dangles the possibility of a meaningful verse or moment like the Golden Apple above Tantalus’ head. On “Spinning Away,” Sims begins with promise (“You were in a shouting match with God on the fire escape… and I thought ‘What a waste’”) before quickly reverting to the atmosphere of self-assurance and party-boy mentality (“…and I thought ‘What a waste/of perfectly good cocaine’”). He structures an entire song around the tale of Icarus, a concept that can be–and has been–navigated with skill (refer to Kate Tempest’s hip-hop poem of the same name). Sims, though, spends no time focusing on or analyzing the tragic demise of this archetypal character, and thus sacrifices the very meaning behind the myth.
It would surely be unfair to ignore the clever moments on the record: there are several, and these are particularly what make the clumsy residue so frustrating. If one is to give More Than Ever a chance, he or she ought to stick around to the bitter end, as the record ends with what are easily the two strongest songs presented. “Voltaire” engages Sims as a storyteller, in which an eerily familiar scenario of gun violence is recounted in the first person. The album comes to a conclusion with the vivacity of “Gosper Island,” which dwells in the radiance of cinematic metaphor. Sims paints stronger imagery in these final four minutes than he does in the rest of the record combined.
With a finale this strong, one wonders how and why Sims spends the prior eleven songs engaging in Drake-isms and shallow braggadocio. And while there are gems hidden throughout this LP, the remainder provides little appeal.