Smino Credit: Jack McKain

When Chicago-based rapper Smino was on tour for his breakout 2017 album, Blkswn, he appeared on a billboard in his native Saint Louis, advertising his homecoming show headlining Delmar Hall (capacity 750). And with his ultrasmooth voice and even smoother personality, Smino’s been rising further upward without even seeming to try, achieving a slow and steady growth that’s increasingly rare in the age of the viral hit. Since the November release of his second album, Noir (via his collective’s label, Zero Fatigue, and licensed to Interscope-distributed Downtown Records), he’s cracked the bottom of the Billboard 200, and for his current tour he’s blocked off two nights in Chicago to headline the House of Blues (capacity 1,800). He’s largely kept the album within his Zero Fatigue family, collaborating on the bulk of it with producer Monte Booker, and it’s clear from Smino’s recent interview with Rolling Stone that the two have a strong bond. “I felt like he was limitless,” Smino said. “I don’t like limitations. He can make anything. It’s damn near sickening, bro. He’s too good at making beats. I never seen nobody make beats like that.” Smino gets a lot out of mileage out of working with those he holds close: on the coolheaded, Booker-produced “Z4L,” which also features Zero Fatigue rappers Bari and Jay2, he sounds positively angelic while delivering lurid lines.   v