With the recent release of blkswn, Smino has burst into the ever-growing hip-hop subgenre already inhabited by Noname, Saba, and Isaiah Rashad. The release of the EP blkjptr in June, 2016, left listeners wanting more of Smino’s unique rhythm and sound, with his feature on Noname’s “Shadow Man” being the only other appearance of 2016. The much-anticipated album blkswn has surpassed all expectations, acting as a continuation and improvement upon the mood and style of blkjptr. Smino’s newfound comfort with his own singing voice is evident, with numerous tracks interweaving complex beats with smooth vocals. With this breakthrough album, Smino has successfully broken beyond the confines of stereotypical rap, incorporating hints of jazz, R&B, and his own lyricism to create a beautifully soulful sound.
Smino, born Christopher Smith Jr, grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and was exposed to the pillars of jazz, R&B, and the blues by his father and grandfather, both of whom were musicians. After getting involved in a church band, Smino’s love for music only grew. He went to Columbia College in Chicago, yet dropped out before completing his freshman year. However, during his time there he met his best friend and manager, along with whom he began his exploration of hip-hop through mixtapes and EPs. Over the course of his career thus far, Smino has only continued to grow and will likely keep doing so.
The mesmerizing beat of “Wild Irish Roses” indicates the departure from Smino’s blkjptr; there is a clear level of sophistication and confidence that was lacking in his previous work. Describing a night as he ventures to buy backwoods, this track provides a glimpse into a later-touched-on theme of Smino’s own experiences with drugs, alcohol, and sex. Furthermore, the track “Netflix & Dusse” describes the quintessential night in with a special someone. In this track Smino explores the complexities of relationships between young people and specifically the dynamic between young men and women. The crowned jewel of the entire album is “Glass Flows,” as it demonstrates Smino’s prowess and versatility as an artist. It displays his natural singing voice in harmony with Ravyn Lenae and contains a variety of different components. Overall, it’s a relatively short listen, amounting to just over an hour, and is perfect for a mellow afternoon or a relaxed party situation.
With the release of blkswn, Smino has established himself as a rising star within the hip-hop world, and will be worth watching as he continues to develop as an artist. As he continues to refine his sound, we can only expect good things.
Key Tracks: “Glass Flows”, “Netflix & Dusse”, “Anita”, “Amphetamine”