St. Louis rapper/singer Smino combines hip-hop with funk and soul influences, much like contemporaries Isaiah Rashad, Saba, and Ab-Soul. Debuting in the early 2010s with a series of mixtapes and EPs, he issued his official debut blkswn in 2017 and marked his first appearance on the Billboard charts the following year with NOIR.
Born Christopher Smith, Jr., he was raised by a family of musicians who provided early exposure to jazz, blues, and gospel music, which he would go on to blend with his own influences Kanye West and Dungeon Family. A drummer since childhood, Smino played in his church band before he started rapping. His first foray into hip-hop was as half of the St. Louis duo YDOC ("Young Dumb and Outta Control"). Later, he released a solo mixtape, SMEEZY DOT COM. After graduating high school, he moved to Chicago to attend Columbia College. There, singer Drea Smith (his cousin) introduced him to other artists in the local scene. In 2015, he formed the music collective Zero Fatigue with producer Monte Booker, rapper Jay2AintShit, and singer Ravyn Lenae. He released his first official EP, the sexually charged S!Ck S!Ck S!Ck, that October, quickly following with the Blkjuptr EP, an André 3000-esque meditation on cultural alienation. By year's end, he'd released the title track to his debut LP, "Blkswn," which was closely followed by the subsequent 2017 singles "Anita" and "BlkOscars." Blkswn arrived in early 2017 and featured appearances by Ravyn Lenae, Noname, and more. He promoted the effort on tours supporting SZA and T-Pain through the end of the year. In 2018, Smino issued "New Coupe, Who Dis?" with Chicago emcee Mick Jenkins. That November, he issued his second full-length, NOIR, which was his first to enter the Billboard 200. ~ Neil Z. Yeung