Smino is the ringmaster of the circus that is his debut album “blkswn.” The 18-song album, made with the help of his music collective “Zero Fatigue,” is a combination of soul, funk, R&B, electronic, and hip-hop, producing a unique sound.
The St. Louis rapper released “blkswn” on March 14, 2017, evoking the St. Louis area code (314), after dropping a group of singles starting in late 2016. Leading up to his first studio album, Smino has a limited discography as his career is still in its infancy. “S!Ck S!Ck S!Ck” and “blkjuptr” both serve as opening acts for a great lead album.
Following the trend of moving away from violence in hip-hop and rap, Smino has been able to mold a slew of genres together to build a sound that is completely unique to him. With subject matter ranging from Wild Irish Roses wine to Cruella from 101 Dalmatians, the lyrics are dense with witty and clever bars that will keep you on your toes throughout the 63-minute project.
There is an unmistakable romance to songs such as “Glass Flows,” where he trades lines with Ravyn Lenae, and “Netflix & Dusse,” a song about Netflix and chilling. Along with a voice that is unlike anything being delivered, the project shows amazing promise.
“blkswn” works tediously to keep you enveloped in the world that Smino works to create for the listener. Songs blend together and flow through your headphones all while moving in and out of blends of funk, rap, hip-hop, and soul. The effect is complex. The audience is left wondering how they ended up in the middle of the album, arriving confused and disoriented, but if you are able to release yourself to the music, you cannot help but enjoy the ride it takes you on.
This is not to say that the album is anywhere near perfect. The biggest issue of “blkswn” is that the momentum is killed by songs that are more disruptive than cohesive. Notably, songs like “Lobby Kall” and “B Role,” draws the listener out of the world that is built through the soundscapes delivered by Smino and his friend and producer Monte Booker. Yet, with all the bumps there is no denying that Smino has a promising future.
The ambition is what makes “blkswn” stand out. Debut albums are most commonly used to introduce an artist to the masses with a safety net of sorts. Songs are tuned for mass appeal and are riddled with sounds that are popular at the moment, not music that is true to the artist. Smino’s attempt to break into the mainstream was “Anita-Remix” featuring T-Pain. Unfortunately, T-Pain is not the hitmaker he once was. While the song was great, it failed to create the desired buzz–only generating 100,000 more views on YouTube than the original mix of the song. Smino does have seven other features on “blkswn”, but these are all artist that are not there to attract attention. They are simply tools to create a better sound which is what a feature truly should be.
Smino has done his job with this album. His personality and unique style shine through brightly. All one can do is hope that more music is released soon and Smino is able to expand the already impressive discography that he has established.