Hailing from St.Louis, but currently residing in Chicago, Smino has called two of America's musical hotbed towns home for his entire life. His vocals are move at an unpredictable timbre, with an improvised delivery of a Blue Note trumpet; he weaves stories of pain, lust, joy, and hate together as raw as down on his luck bluesman could; his songs are all filled with a soul older, somehow wiser than their creator; and he words carry a tiny hint of Midwestern syrupy drawl and underdog passion. Thankfully, he wears his influences right on his sleeve.
However, Smino is by no means unoriginal or your run of the mill rap artist. Whatever he was able to absorb from his environment—the good and the bad—is then transformed or filtered through his lens. His jazz persuasion and Midwestern accent are metamorphisized into a slick, often expedient sing-rap fusion that falls close in line with the post-Drake world of today in a unique way. His production is filled with odd space motifs of the funk/soul era, but distilled through 808s and synthesizers.
It is for these reason that Smino's blkjuptr is so interesting and enjoyable. While there are only five tracks on the entire EP, they each bring an interesting past to the present, to finally escape towards the future. Smino and Monte Booker, who produced the entire project, were able to tell such a vivid story with such a small sample size. There are countless moments that needed multiple replays to properly grasp. Smino's lyrical ability and Booker's top-shelf production skills creates a soundscape that is so deep, it is easy to find oneself drowning in it.
Smino stated that he created Blk Juptr as an escape from alienation on Earth, which is reminiscent of Parliament-Funkadelic and Sun Ra. His goal is an intergalactic flight to a far off, pretend planet; he achieves his mission. There are merits to each track, but something has to be said of "Poppa;" it is a song that really demonstrates Smino's talent. For majority of the record, he is singing to and about his girl. Booker's keys set the regretful, melancholy mood that the MC just takes embodies in his verses. Julian Bell offers an solid, albeit understated feature. "Oxygen," which follows, might be the second strongest song on the EP. Booker adds layers of interesting sounds that feel like they could be found in space; while Smino wails about his need for oxygen, an metaphor for space, time, and something to hold onto.
Chicago has been pumping out artist for a few years now, but it's next star might actually call St. Louis home. Smino's Blk Juptr is a fantastic sophomore project, and for many a first introduction. It is a multifaceted EP that will take some time to get through, but is worth the time spent. Definitely give it a listen above and look out for more of his music coming soon.