By: Edward Willshire, Contributing Writer
St. Louis based rapper Smino has been making big moves over the past couple months. He’s collaborated on several of Chicago’s best up-and-coming artists’ recent projects, and he’s released a number of singles over the past year. From there, Smino released songs sporadically until the album was released on March 14. After Smino’s previous short projects S!ck S!ck S!ck and Blkjuptr, this debut album has been a long time coming. It doesn’t disappoint, presenting the wide range of Smino’s vocals, as well as his ability to collaborate with some of today’s most exciting producers.
The tone of the album shifts a number of different points but primarily focuses on the rapper’s lovelife, musical style and talent and celebrating the city of St. Louis. Smino keeps the vibe consistently upbeat, although certain tracks like “B Role” up the intensity or slow the pace, as exemplified in the title track. Smino doesn’t seek to imitate any styles on this album; his sound is very much his own.
The album is primarily produced by Smino’s most frequent collaborator, Chicago-based Monte Booker. His sound and Smino’s vocals fit together flawlessly. Booker plays with tempo and off-beat sounds that create a very unique but natural rhythm. This is displayed in the hectic song “Blkoscars,” which was one of the album’s singles. The song, which celebrates the underappreciated achievements of black people, is one of many on the album which hits a relevant topic but is so uniquely Smino in execution. His voice pops up entire octaves mid-bar, using his intonation to create the kind of recognizable sounds usually achieved with ad libs.
Possibly the best song on the album, “Netflix & Dusse,” brings back a verse that some may have heard on the leaked version of Big Sean’s song “Living Single.” With a catchy and memorable hook, this song quickly rose to be my favorite on the album. The verse, one of the best Smino has ever delivered, pairs well with the hook. This song is an excellent example of Smino’s deft rhyming capabilities, as each line impresses with slant and internal rhymes that take multiple listens to truly appreciate.
The 18-track album has a few songs that don’t leave too much of an impression, but there’s more than enough good peppered throughout to recommend. Initially the standout songs were those released as singles; however, when listening again,“Spitshine,” “B Role” and “Silk Pillows,” began to leave an impact. The less immediately memorable songs have plenty in them that are worth your time and attention.
Smino is still a very new and young artist who will hopefully have a long career ahead of him. He’s coming up at the right time, and if he continues to work with the Chicago talent surrounding him as well as boasting the status of St. Louis hip-hop, then Smino’s unique sound could really represent something new. Smino is definitely one of the artists to keep an eye on in 2017. He’s about to head off on tour and if his past habits are any indication, he and Booker will be keeping busy making music, looking to follow up an impressive debut effort.