[Review]: Smino Shed Light on Melodic Rap At The Music Hall of Williamsburg

Smino, originally from St. Louis, took Brooklyn by storm yesterday evening. The singer/rapper swept the audience away by playing an extended set featuring an 8-piece band, as opposed to a DJ-only rap show. Though doors were at 8pm at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, Smino stepped on stage at 10:15, preceded by an hour-long DJ set by Nosidam. The show began sluggishly, but quickly escalated, as the guitarist, bassist, and drummer stepped on stage during the DJ set. Live improvisational music accompanied Nosidam’s performance, smoothing the less-refined edges of the set, while also highlighting the best qualities of pop favorites like SZA’s “Doves in the Wind,” Playboy Carti’s “Magnolia,” and Anderson .Paak’s “Come Down.” The band also significantly “de-popped” the songs by decreasing the tempo, adding complex bass lines, and jazzing up the drums.

When Smino stepped on stage, he instantaneously grabbed the audience’s attention. Dressed in an all-orange tracksuit with freshly laced-up hair, his air of confidence and uninhibited sexuality brought the stage to life. Opening with blkswn” off of his first studio album, the concert started strong and did not let up. One song after another, Smino gave stellar performances, full of energy and unparalleled musicianship. During transitional moments, Smino filled the space with stories of his youth, his recently-completed tour, relationships, and above all, his admiration for women–talk about sexy. Additionally, Smino intermittently chatted with the audience, learning to “yerrr” like a true New Yorker, poking fun at the words “deadass” and “facts,” and signing a lucky man’s Air Force One sneaker.

Overall, Smino’s set was a display of both the pure musicianship and heart, that back melodic rap today. The facets of blkswn came to life in new ways, when played on a full drumkit as opposed to a sample pad, or when bass riffs were artfully fingered on a six-string instead of at the press of a button. The interactions between the artists themselves was inspiring and hilarious, as Smino bragged about the talent of his 16 year old keyboardist, and invited one of the DJ’s to center-stage during a dance break. Smino made clear that these artists have grown together, despite being apart for many months while Smino’s been on tour. All in all, the show’s sold-out status over two nights is incredibly telling of Smino’s rising popularity, and hammers home the notion that Smino is a breakthrough artist who should be commanding our attention in the modern music world.

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