Mike A. Bryan, A&E Editor
Smino, as many of you probably know, is a St. Louis native, even though he lives and records in Chicago with Zero Fatigue Records. He has two EP’s, “S!ck S!ck S!ck” and “blkjuptr,” both of which are worth a listen, although I prefer “blkjuptr.” His breakout album in 2017, “blkswn,” made huge waves at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, and was hailed as one of the 40 best rap albums of the year by Rolling Stone magazine. It is, by far, my favorite hip-hop album by anyone from St. Louis, and yes, I am aware that Metro Boomin is from St. Louis as well. The sound that Smino creates on “blkswn” is his style perfected—the ideal mix of Andre 3000-style lyrics, bluesy, southern funky hooks, and catchy choruses with a gospel lean. His major influences are Andre 3000 of OutKast and Kanye West; his sound exemplifies the merging of the two, with the heavier lyrical influence of Andre 3000.
Of course, when the new album came out, I jumped on it and added it to my heavy rotation. I was quickly disappointed. Smino continues his signature sound and even works with some interesting beat experiments on “TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD” and “PIZANO.” Overall, however, the album doesn’t do that much for me. I expected his signature sound, but hoped that he would continue to evolve and develop as an artist. This album sounds like the B-sides to the last one.
That being said, the album is still better than the majority of hip-hop being released these days, and definitely deserves a listen. Smino is an incredibly talented artist, and even though I can’t understand his St. Louis mumble half the time, I still enjoy his sound. He even shouts out St. Louis in a number of the tracks, mentioning “Delmar” in one. The songs flow well from one to the next, with a couple featuring fellow Zero Gravity artist Bari, and one with Ravyn Lenae. These songs are some of the highlights of the album. Ravyn Lenae is a supremely talented rhythm and blues songstress that will break any day now. Her feature on this album is groovy, sexy and funky. Bari’s deep voice and slow flow are an interesting contrast to Smino’s rapid flow.
Even though this album disappointed me, I am still recommending that you give it a listen. Smino’s signature style of bluesy, funky, groovy hip-hop is fun, catchy and memorable. His shows here usually sell out quickly, so be sure to grab your tickets early the next time he’s performing in town. His albums can be found on Spotify and other online streaming services.