I spent a good deal of my early adult life near St. Louis; went to SIUE, often visited St. Louis with my homies. Made a couple visits to Pink Slip in East Saint, partied on NYE at the AdamsMark, and the St. Louis Mardi Gras was lit. It has a southern soul feel in their culture somewhat like Chicago; we have that here but St. Louis is considered to some as down south. You can hear that southern soul-jazz-blues impact in Smino’s blkswn.
Smino stands apart from most artists in a way his melody and lyric go in and out flawlessly. He can sing as easily as needed and give you bars real quick; that’s not a feat brought on easily it must be developed and mastered. I love that is in his style though, because it’s easy to go the standard route or you can turn your shit up and make people love it. blkswn opens with the question on everybody mind when you walk in a liquor store: “Backwoods here? You got Backwoods?” From that moment it’s like the feeling of unwrapping a new artist’s album you been waiting to hear for years. That’s Smino. I had the same feeling when Kanye West dropped College Dropout. Excitement drove me to listen to blkswn 6 times in 10 hours.
I’m much more of a fan of music than I am a critic so excuse my obsession but I always need to listen for lyrics before anything and if the wordplay is ill I’ll listen multiple times to try to annotate meanings. There’s plenty of what I would call catch-up moments in Blkswn. If Smino says something in double entendre and in reference to something else soon after you’ll miss it and must come back to it. I enjoy artists that do that. It challenges the consumer to actually hear them. Why give you beans, rice, lobster, shark, chicken, steak, and stew juice? I got the gumbo prepared already you figure it out. That’s the challenge. He says “Hennessy blk charging my hood chakras” and I was like mmm with the ugly emoji face and the same when he referenced BMX great Dave Mirra and about a thousand other times through Blkswn. I can relate to that but it’s the way he terms it that makes his music lit. Mix in with Monte Booker on the production and it’s a grand site man.
I don’t know how Smi and Monte linked but thank you higher power. Monte doesn’t pound through every layer of his production with 808s, that’s not how he impacts a listener. In the same way Smino isn’t the braggy rapper, Monte doesn’t present himself as a Southside or Metro Boomin type. I would liken his production style to more like Ye R&B feel, DJ Quik, J Dilla or even like Q-Tip. To clear that up ill reference, Quik style overall, Dilla on The Shining and the latest Q production including The Renaissance, We Got It From Here… and the assist on Solange’s album. That way.
The added in producers on blkswn; Phoelix that did work as of late on two 2016 standout projects NoName’s Telefone and Saba’s Bucketlist and longtime Chicago collective THEMPeople that have contributed to everyone from Saint Millie to Chance the Rapper, provide the same feel as the rest of the project by so keeping the flow smooth all the way through.
Blkswn has a few key features: Ravyn Lanae with the soft jazz sounding vibe who just dropped a 5-track ep, Midnight Moonlight, Zero Fatigue’s own Bari and Jay2 who both came through with heat on “Flea Flicka” and “blkoscars,” respectively. The Mind assisted Smi on “Edgar Allen Poe’d Up,” Via Rose hit vocals on “Long Run,” Akenya came with flows on the second verse of “Silk Pillows,” Smino multi-talented cousin Drea Smith of band Pyyramids provided a blessing also. The last track Amphetamine has two parts in which Krash Kourse and No Name come through with verses to end out the L10 engineered opus that is blkswn.
A few of my favorites from blkswn are “Wild Irish Roses,” “Glass Flows,” “Netflix &Dusse,” “Anita,” “Father Son Holy Smoke” and “blkswn.” Like normally I advise you to take my opinion to heart. Rest In Power my brother Reshod K. Robinson. 314 this for y’all.
Smino’s blkswn is available on all streaming platforms.