Blkswn – Smino


St. Louis based rapper Smino is making his own lane with his debut album blkswn. It follows up his blkjuptr EP released in 2015. The eighteen-song deep album is mostly produced by close friend and LA-based Soulection artist, Monte Booker, hailing from Chicago. Blkswn crosses the line between hip hop, soul, jazz, funk, and electronic, blending elements from different genres. The production is delectable. The smooth basslines and funky melodies bring out the quality in the wordplay. I was mesmerized by album’s unique sound and the chemistry between the vocalists. He switches between crooning a soulful chorus to upper echelon lyricism with ease. The wide range of delivery is reminiscent of Anderson .Paak and Chance the Rapper, but with fresh melodies. The songs transition from a slow jam feel to the fast lane as Smino touches on life lessons, romances and anything else on his mind. His flow is original unlike so many up and coming rappers. One of his goals is that the release will put his hometown on the map. He explained to the Fader that he hates that so many tours skip St. Louis. He said that people don’t think it’s an organized city when in reality, it is home to lots of creatives. Smino hopes that his music opens doors for them. He reminisces on the status of his hometown, “I remember after Mike Brown got killed, people just wanted to be heard but the media cut them off. So we started the “hands up, don’t shoot” movement, and it was all these voices of young people wanting to be heard. We can make that same thing happen on a positive note.” I really admire the connection he has to his hometown. He inspired his city by battling through life’s obstacles and pursuing his dreams.


You can hear the soul in his voice as he burns through Monte Booker’s jazzy, sensual beats. Smino has many musical influences. The main one being his family of musicians. In a feature with XXL Magazine, Smino shares that his grandfather is a bass player and a member of the Blues hall of fame. His dad played keys. His mom is a singer and his big cousin toured the world singing. It wasn’t long before he realized that he might as well do music. It was around age thirteen when he started recording and making music every day. He was inspired to get really into it because of how happy it made his family. He was motivated by their talent to develop his own sound. Even with all the talent in the world, many artists struggle to achieve financial success. Smino stuck with the family business nonetheless. It appears that his hard work is going to pay off. As more people hear his music, his popularity will continue to rise.


On the third song in the album, Smino claims that he’s “walking light on these glass flows,” as if one misstep could jeopardize everything. The story he’s telling is deeply personal but anyone can relate to it. It’s about love and a delicate relationship– taking too much and not giving enough back. He goes back and forth with Ravyn Lenae throughout the song. There are a handful of different female vocalists featured throughout the album. Noname Gypsy shuts down the album with an incredible verse on last track. The features are beautiful and they compliment the energy of the various songs. A good example is the album’s single,  “Anita.” It’s a catchy, upbeat song with an unexpected mix of rapping and singing that typifies Smino’s style. It’s appealing from every angle just like the girl he’s singing about. The title song blkswn is fit to carry the name of the album. Smino guarantees that he is going after the money, and his close friends and fans are the only people invited to come with him for the ride. To sum it up with Smino’s words, “being timeless how I pass time…scheming, plotting til’ it’s attack time. He is also one third of the “Zero Fatigue” crew along with Monte Booker, Jay2AintShit, and singer Ravyn Lenae. Their identity is the same from their lifestyle to their work ethic; it’s that you never get tired of doing something you love. You can feel the passion in their work because it comes from the soul. The movement is not just about making cool music, rather it is about being better people. Smino preaches that although separation is a growing trend, it will get better as more people are aware of it. We are the only ones that can change the way we treat each other, and the world.


By: Collin Turner


Written by Music Director

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