Smino – blkswn [Album Review]

Tracklist:

  1. Wild Irish Roses
  2. Maraca
  3. Glass Flows (f. Ravyn Lenae)
  4. Flea Flicka (f. Bari)
  5. Spitshine
  6. Netflix & Dusse
  7. Anita
  8. Lobby Kall
  9. Edgar Allen Poe’d Up (f. theMIND)
  10. Father Son Holy Smokes
  11. B Role
  12. blkoscars (f. Jay20
  13. blkswn
  14. Long Run (f. Viarosa)
  15. Innamission
  16. Silk Pillows (f. Akenya)
  17. Ricky Millions (f. Drea Smith)
  18. Amphetamine 

 

First Impressions:

There is so much to be said about the young St. Louis artist by the name of Smino that I almost don’t know where to begin. For those that have been living underneath a rock, Smino is one soul that you simply cannot go without hearing. With singles like “blkjuptr” and “Anita”, anticipation was at an all time high when word got out about a possible album release. New fans such as myself were unsure of what to expect, besides the sheer dopeness that he’s produced prior on said singles. Alas, ladies and gentlemen, this album was a true testament to the kind of impeccable work that Smino is so effortlessly capable of, and a pleasure to listen to from start to finish.

Before I dive too deep into the creative tunes that made this album what it was, I’d like to take a moment to appreciate the cover art that was chosen. The effective use of colors gave it an appeal even before listening, depicting Smino’s hair being twisted under the dim setting with a conveniently placed white comb marked with “blkswn” for all listeners to see. After taking all of that in, one presses play and the journey set sails. Wild Irish Roses was the perfect way to usher you in, with very soothing vocals that translate into the raw and rugged rap style of Smino. This is something he has clearly spent time mastering, as that relaxed paced was used several times on songs like blkswn and Edgar Allen Poe’d Up, with great results on each track. What I love most about the way he raps is that Smino shows no indication of being afraid to try several ranges, thus allowing him to evoke many different flows throughout one song while still sounding coherent. He might start a song out with a low pitch singing voice like in Lobby Kall, and mid way will blurt these hard raps and top it off with his falsetto, most notably in his song B Role. Point being, the Anita rapper will have a hard time boring you on this tape.

In my honest opinion, there was not one bad feature to be located on this album. On tracks like Flea Flicka and blkoscars, Smino paired perfectly with the likes of Bari and Jay2, who each gave memorable verses for their respective tracks. Oddly enough, I believe Smino has the capability to overpower an artist on a song if he wanted due to his dominant voice and style, yet I found that he balanced his talents with whoever he was with and it worked every single time. Rather than be the star, he complimented the styles of whoever he had on his songs, which is a respect that is to be admired in an artist. Especially on Glass Flows with singer Ravyn Lenae, I was surprised to hear how well they meshed together on a song, as if they were already an established duo (their connection with Zero Fatigue was definitely shown here).

One could point out that it was pretty lengthy for an album, but with an artist of his caliber, it would not be a stretch to want more (or at least another tape of some sort soon!). Innamission was an ideal stopping point for the album, just so listeners could take in everything they heard right before, but even THAT song went in, giving listeners no time to breathe or inhalation as we snap right along to his cool raps. Silk Pillows, for me, was a trademark of Smino’s steez, hitting all elements of quality raps, a wonderful feature from Akenya, and that “..I’d rather be with you”, which truly warms the heart for all that understand the reference (and those that just love the way its sung!). It is an early start to the year, but this album has everything it takes to stay in constant rotation. Sounds like these come once in a life time, and I truly think Smino is a special talent with the ability to pioneer a lane of art that can blossom into something magical. He rapped with such conviction on every song and did not bother to waste a verse, something that is very rare in the game as of now. This album is exactly what I think music is all about, being able to feel free enough to express your creativity to the world and be comfortable with who you are and what you represent, and that is precisely what Smino executed on blkswn.

Favorite Songs:

  • Father Son Holy Smokes: “Kill the cops and starve the culture vultures/ I’m learning to teach my kids about agriculture/ F.D.A approving murder burgers/ The bullets ain’t the only thing that hurt us/ We’re really all supposed to serve a purpose”

My god. There were some many lines worth of gems packed into a 4 minute song that I almost could not choose. Smino used a faster pace to deliver these bars and it still flowed like water, breaking only when he began to harmonize and picked up again by the end of the song. I honestly do not know how he does it, being able to maintain such a casualty to the way he spits and yet having it sound like the most profound thing you ever heard really makes you appreciate the talent needed to create songs such as this. “Smoke in the mirror, I can’t see..” is such a clever lines for a several reasons, and Smino’s ability to deliver lines like that without sounding too preachy is amazing. I almost couldn’t finish the rest of the album because I could not get passed this one song – it is so powerful and refreshing to hear good raps being delivered in a way only Smino can do.

  • Amphetamine: “Got no doubt I’ll be alright/ If I just make it through the night”

Just like the beginning of the album, Smino again prepares you for a proper finish on this track. It just feels like bedtime – the euphoric beat almost quells one to sleep right as the blkswn veteran whispers easy rhymes one last time. I can agree to his statement about making it through the night – it always feels as though if I can do that, then the rest of the day is mine for the taking. This song had hidden motivation attached to it, whether speaking about amphetamines figuratively or not, Smino asserts that the destination is always forward no matter the uncertainty. Again, the carefully crafted pattern was marvelous, having meaningful verses and a bridge I can imagine listeners singing to themselves over and over.

Conclusion:

blkswn was a real masterpiece, with nearly every song having quality placement on the album contributing to stunning progression from the start to the very last song. His love for St. Louis and the 314 are very present all over this album, and it would not be far off to say he made some people very proud from his city with the release of blkswn. With a project such as this tacked on to your already legendary discography, the future seems very much in Smino’s hands, and I hope he continues to produced timeless work such as this for the remainder of his career.

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