25 year old Chris Smith Jr. – better known by his stage name Smino – is making serious strides to establish himself as the next big visionary in rap. The Chicago-via-St. Louis rapper’s debut studio album blkswn is a beautifully-crafted assortment of soulful upbeat tunes with syncopated riffs, reminiscent of Andre 3000 and Chance the Rapper.
Smino was born into a musically-gifted family: his grandfather was a Blues Hall of Fame bass player, his father played keys, and his mother and older cousin Drea Smith of the indie rock collective PYYRAMIDS are singers. Growing up in the church, Smino drew a lot of his musical inspiration from the vocal harmonies ever-present in gospel music. By the age of seven, he had ventured into writing his own rhymes and even began producing at 13.
He first became familiar with Chicago after briefly attending the illustrious Columbia College to study media management in 2010. However, after dropping out, Smino found himself living in between St. Louis and Milwuakee to jump-start his music career. He found himself first performing using his birth name before adopting the moniker Smeezy and YDOC (Young Dumb and Out of Control) – a rap duo that he formed with St. Louis rapper Bari Allen. However, he finally settled on the name Smino as a homage to the Nino Brown character from the film New Jack City and later moved back to Chicago to establish it as his musical home.
Since then, Smino has formed the Zero Fatigue collective (alongside his producer Monte Booker and frequent collaborator and vocalist Ravyn Lenae) and released two noteworthy EPs S!Ck S!Ck S!Ck and blkjuptr before dropping his enigmatic blkswn project. The jam-packed, 18 track album – which features guest appearances from the Zero Fatigue family, Noname, Bari, Via Rose, and his cousin Drea Smith among others – possesses an instant classic feel. From the endearing ode to black women “Anita,” to the date night tune “Netflix & Dusse,” and the respectfully boastful title track, or the smooth outro “Amphetamine,” blkswn is a funky and soulful sonic experience.
Check out Smino’s debut album here.