(Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Blkswn (2017), 6/10
N0IR (2018), 5/10
Luv 4 Rent (2022), 6/10

Chicago-based St Louis-born rapper Christopher "Smino" Smith, debuted with the mixtape Smeezy Dot Com (2012), followed by the three-song EP S!Ck S!Ck S!Ck (2015), with the stuttering orchestral soul-rap ballad Ruby Red and Monte Booker's surreal arrangement in Ballet, and by the five-song EP Blkjuptr (2015), whose soul-rap ballads Blkjuptr and Poppa rely on vocal acrobatics, while the liquid beat is the highlight of Zoom.

Blkswn (2017) is too long at 18 songs but it includes two groups of songs that stand out. The first group is the ones with catchy refrains: Anita (Jean Deaux sings the soul refrain), Maraca (a lot more original) and Glass Flows (the real melodic peak, which Ravyn Lenae sings). The second group is the raps that highlight Smith's vocal skills: his signature song Wild Irish Roses, Father Son Holy Smoke, and the frenzied Innamission. The atmospheric ballads are generally tedious, with the exception of the eight-minute Amphetamine which evolves into a complex narrative. The album is overlong.

Obviously Smino didn't learn from his mistakes because his second album N0IR (2018) is again an 18-song tour de force. A psychedelic feeling pervades half of the album, like in the somnolent/stoned Summer Salt and in the hazy/lazy Kovert, and sometimes coupled with jazzy accents. Even the Ravyn Lenae wailing in MF Groove sounds influenced by jazz singers. The catchy Z4L stands out. Lots of underdeveloped ideas, and some filler.

Smino also founded the musical collective Zero Fatigue and played in the hip-hop groups Zoink Gang and Ghetto Sage (this one with Saba and Noname).

Booker is still the main producer on Luv 4 Rent (2022), but is joined by a cast of 15 other producers. And for the first time Smino incorporates samples. Thus the album is his most eclectic yet, with bangers like Pro Freak and Pudgy next to jazzy ballads like Blu Billy and to the funky soul-rap hybrid 90 Proof.

(Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )