Smino won’t let the world forget he’s from Saint Louis. Sure, he’s lived in Chicago for a few years now, assembling the Zero Fatigue collective with singer Ravyn Lenae and producer Monte Booker. But he spelled out his loyalty to his old hometown in a September interview with hip-hop blog Passion of the Weiss: “I lived 85% of my life in St. Louis, so definitely, I got St. Louis on my back right now.” When it came time for Smino to drop his debut album, Blkswn, he picked a date strategically: Tuesday, March 14. The telephone area code for Saint Louis, not at all by coincidence, is 314.
All that said, Smino’s music is too idiosyncratic to sound like he’s representing a particular scene or style, whether from Saint Louis or from anywhere else. On Blkswn he raps like he’s escaped earth’s gravitational pull. His slippery vocals float through the songs, and he can shift from the upper reaches his falsetto to taut, punchy rapping so smoothly and instantly you’d swear it was a tape splice. I especially like his jaunty performance on “Innamission,” which is propelled by Booker’s clipped keys and a quilt of delicate percussion.