One of the most multidimensional artists creating right now is none other than St. Louis native, Smino. The out-of-box wordsmith delivered his sophomore album, NOIR, last Thursday following up his highly-acclaimed 2017 debut, blkswan. The album is filled with captivating production and lyricism showcasing a maturing artist.
Smino creates his own language implemented by his rhyme scheme, which is a variation of metaphors, double entendres and alliterations. Easily maneuvering between singing and rapping, Smino is malleable when it comes to his craft. We listened to Smino's new album over the weekend and returned with 7 moments that made us say "Damn!"
1. The Quiet Introduction
The album begins with a whisper, an unidentified low-voice explains the title, NOIR, describing its multiple meanings: black, statuesque, strong and sweet. The 18-second introduction opens up to Smino harmonizing alongside a growing set of piano keys. The first 30-seconds are heavy to say the least, leaving us with one thought, "You have our attention Smino, damn."
2. His Effortless Flow on The Island Anthem, "TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD"
One of the most special qualities Smino possesses as an MC is his knack for finding a pocket within an array of complex production. Proving this ability on "TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD," Smino paints a picture of palm trees and chilled tequila. His effortless navigation of this complex set of beats leaves us baffled. "Damn, Smino can rap on anything!"
The seventh track, "Z4L," is the men of Zero Fatigue showing out. Bari and Jay2 assist Smino in reminding the world of the rapping strength of the Chicago-based collective. The trio shines on the Monte Booker production, leaving us wanting for more Jay2 and Bari who are rumored to be releasing individual projects later this year. The big takeaway from this track is, "Damn, the men of Zero Fatigue can rap!"
4. Melodic Smino on The Dreezy Collab, "FENTY SEX"
Mainly collaborating with members of his own collective makes Dreezy's feature on "FENTY SEX" special. The collaboration is everything the song's boisterous title promises: sexual innuendos, tongue-in-cheek references, and a playful beat for the two MC's to shine on. Smino takes the backseat on the track laying down a melodic chorus and verse leaving Dreezy to aggressively ether the Monte Booker production. Feel free to say it with me, "Damn!"
5. Smino & Valee Stay Drippin
Smino creates a playful chorus on the bass-driven production of the Valee-assisted "KULTURE ICE." The chorus boasts an off-beat, fast-paced lifestyle. Smino brags,
"Unless I lost the Piguet, I fucked her in my bunk bed
The bus shake and we bump heads, I met her right off Sunset
Then fucked her 'til the sun rose"
Both MC's deliver braggadocios verses about the extravagancy of their lives through a series of "weird flexes." The outrageous nature of the track leaves us astonished, "Damn, we need more music from these two slurring elites."
6. Smino & Ravyn Lenae Are A Match Made in Heaven
The pairing of Smino and Chicago vocalist Ravyn Lenae can only be described as blissful. "MF GROOVE" transports you to a dream-like state where both artists showcase their angelic harmonies. The dreamy, lo-fi track is an airy palette cleanser leading up to the album's conclusion. "MF GROOVE" is the slow and subtle descent back to earth, "Damn, was that one hell of a trip."
7. A Quotable Closing
NOIR highlights the multiple facets of Smino's artistic ability. His closing track, "VERIZON" solidifies Smino as one of the greatest rappers in hip-hop right now. The clever wordplay of the song's title is translated into the litany of quotable lyrics throughout the song, most notably,
"I had to get on the move, doin' a lot
Tick, tock, I'm catchin' my groove
God bless the cards that I drew
This gon' be a breeze, since I was nine, I had knew
Yeah, let the saints say amen"
Smino is leveling up, his intuition and skill are charting a course for superstardom. NOIR is an eclectic collection of songs from a rapidly approaching star. "Damn Smino, what an album!"