Smino Credit: courtesy the artist

On his debut album, Blkswn (Zero Fatigue/Downtown), Chicago-based rapper Chris Smith Jr. (aka Smino) makes a point of telling you where he came from. “Netflix and Dusse,” a gussied-up track filled with clipped tropical-house beats and come-on raps, ends with a recording of a phone call between Smino and what seems to be his grandfather, who once backed Muddy Waters on bass. “I’m blessed to be able to look and see my history in it though, and just know how I ended up where I’m at,” Smino says. Raised in Saint Louis, he keeps his hometown close to his heart throughout the record: while addressing appropriation on “Amphetamine” he raps, “Don’t give a Chuck ’bout no Berry,” an obvious multilayered reference to his roots. Smino has blossomed since coming to Chicago, where his work with producer Monte Booker, a member of his Zero Fatigue collective, has sparked something in him that sounds like the future. His delicate coos, torrents of sandblasting raps, and flamboyant, sloshing rap-singing electrify the subtlest curves on Blkswn.   v