Sims 'needed to risk everything' on powerful new album 'More Than Ever'


Sims Michael Simmons

“Some granny was in the front row plugging her ears. Nothing brought me more joy than in that moment; I was just loving it and laughing,” Andrew Sims recalls over drinks at Muddy Waters in Minneapolis' Uptown neighborhood.

He's reflecting on his 2012 performance of OutKast banger “Bombs Over Baghdad” while guesting for singer-songwriter Chris Koza’s at St. Paul's Fitzgerald Theater -- a venue known more for subdued concerts. The Doomtree rapper seems to revel in pushing boundaries, unhindered by the fear of making others uncomfortable.

Sims' new album, November's More Than Ever, finds the Minneapolis MC brazenly blazing fresh territories, exploring new subjects with fiery, party-starting gusto. It's his first solo album in five years, and he took the opportunity to create something more personal and self-reflective.

Just consider recent single "What They Don't Know," which is simultaneously a jarring, kick-to-the-teeth declaration, while maintaining its cool, measured introspection. The music video, posted below, features cameos from loads of Twin Cities stars, including Doomtree's P.O.S, Atmosphere's Slug, Har Mar Superstar, and many more.  

Armed with beats from fellow Doomtree members Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger, plus newcomer ICETEP, Sims initially started writing material for More Than Ever in 2015. But rather than keep it lighthearted as he first intended, the subject matter kept creeping toward the topic of death, so he set it aside for the summer. He used that time to deal with his personal life.

Ahead of his album-release party Friday at First Avenue, Sims took the time at Muddy Waters -- a restaurant co-owned by his wife, Sara Schrantz -- to talk with City Pages about the inspirations for More Than Ever.

On how his wife's illness caused him to reflect on his career ...

“In the fall of 2012, my wife got her fourth pancreas transplant. It didn’t go well, and there were all types of systemic failure. She was in and out of the hospital for 180 days. That was a slow, dull time, because we were living with death. In that time, seven friends passed away, so there was that sharp immediacy of them dying. All of that, then my wife was sick, I thought, ‘Is there stability in my career? Would I want to keep doing my music? Should I be doing something more stable that would put me at home and would quell some of those fears about being away from home?’”

On how the album's title became a mantra after the deaths of his friends ...

“I had to set out to make as much art as I can for as long as I can for as long as I have this feeling inside of me. I went back to when I was 14 years old and being in the moment and making stuff and detaching from the result entirely. At 14, I was making music as an expression of love. It’s about joy and defiance and not being controlled by fear.”

On how More Than Ever's 13 songs address mortality ...

“Those are certainties -- not that someone’s going to stop loving you, but that something that you currently have is going away. There’s nothing bad about that. It’s just what us. It’s the same way death operates. That’s just what is. The moment you start living with death, that’s a part of your life. You start to mitigate the fears. I came to that in a different fashion. I was feeling concussed, then coming to, and feeling more clarity and drive than I ever had." 

On how he's evolved as a rapper since his twenties ...

“I have a lot more road underneath me. I’m way less angry than I was at 20 years old. Everything around you is super hard at that age when you think about the injustices of the world. My ideas used to be very hard-edged and hard-lined. When I was 20, I was afraid to share my experiences, because I didn’t think they were worthy to be shared. I wanted to talk about other things. I’m way less that way, because I’ve met way more people and understand a lot more about people. I think that at 33, I have way more figured out than at 20, but I’m sure I’ll say that again in 10 years.”

On the profound inspiration Sims found in his wife ...

“Sara is the most brazen individual I’ve ever met. She’s the bad bitch of the highest order. Her dedication to hard work inspires me. She’s my biggest supporter. The new album is called More Than Ever, because it is that. The idea of committing yourself to full depth and experience and art and love and risk and vulnerability -- all of that stuff as fully and honestly as you can. The answer to the question -- ‘Do I quit making music?’ -- around the time when Sara was sick ... the answer is 'no.' I needed to risk everything more than ever.”

With: WebsterX, Air Credits, Nazeem & Spencer Joles
When: 8 p.m. Fri., Jan. 6
Where: First Avenue
Tickets: $15, more info here