Having missed Smino in London this summer when he sold out a venue 5 minutes from my flat, I jumped at the chance at catching him perform at Pygmalion. I have been following Smino for a while now and the Artist Collective Zero Fatigue fronted by Smino, Ravyn Lenae and producer Monte Booker. Based out of Chicago these artists are making some of the interesting music coming out of the U.S. Blkswn Smino’s debut Album released this year is testament of the talent coming out of this collective.
I had no idea what to expect from Smino as a live performer, only that he was now well seasoned in touring and that his new album had been on repeat in my headphones since its release. Smino came out to my surprise donning a Celtic Football (Soccer) jersey, which I found suitably amusing growing up in an area of Ireland that is the heartland of Celtics biggest rivals in soccer, Glasgow Rangers.
Although the venue only half filled, the crowd returned Smino’s energy with the rapper opening with two of his biggest tracks Blkswn and Anita off his new album. He bounced across the stage making sure every section of the audience had his attention. I was instantly blown away by his singing voice and vocal range, adding subtle ad-libs across his tracks. I had often mistaken Smino’s singing for backing vocals on his tracks, however his voice was true to his recordings if not better. His performance included every fan favorite, even dipping into the back catalogue performing “blkjuptr”. I would love to see Smino perform with some live instrumentation and backing vocals, I think it would lift some of the moments where the tracks are very blues and jazz inspired. Often these are some of my favorite moments in his music, but they struggled at times to have the same effect across a large PA system.
Nevertheless, tracks like Netflix & Dusse still rocked the crowd as expected. Finishing his set with an encore of Monte Booker’s explosive track, Kolors. Leaving the crowd at its liveliest, but bittersweet knowing that Smino was ending there. Smino is worth hearing live, fan or not, it is rare that you find rappers with such a duality in the quality of their rapping and singing abilities, backed with music that is guaranteed to move the crowd.