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Downtown Records

Smino pulls out all the stops on blkswn his first full-length album, released on 3/14 in honor of his hometown St. Louis’ zip code. A fat bassline on “Wild Irish Roses” warms it up with the baby-making vibes, heavy at the start of the album. They’re delivered with some real life advice on “Maraca” a la “life insurance is doing exactly what you like and love / cause that’s that shit that keeps the fire lighting up.” Note: the lyrics on this album are very much worth a google search.

“Glass Flows” reaches unexpectedly into the depth of the fall of a romantic relationship, with Ravyn Lenae stirring up emotions with her purring vocals and poignant lyrics. Smino’s lyrics go deep, revealing specifics of his own relationship struggles in a beautiful and healing way.

“Flea Flicka” follows the catharsis to funk the album a bit, leading into “Spitshine,” which is undeniably danceable, (if you’re listening to it and sitting still, I’m questioning you) and then eases you nicely into the island vibes of “Netflix & Dusse.”

This album has so many different styles and genres within it that it refuses to fit into any predefined label of what a hip hop album “should” be. With intention, as Smino and producer Monte Booker continue to refine their own style. It has everything you want from Smino: the soothing soul on “Anita” and “Lobby Kall”, the quick-lipped raps on “Blkoscars,” hard-hitting one-liners (always), and a beautiful exploration of his own vocal range, combined with sounds you don’t anticipate.

Smino is crossing boundaries, which is especially evident when “B Role” opens up with a bit of punk guitar, reminiscent of Wayne’s “Rebirth” days. Even the intermission “Innamission” gets me dancing in my seat, looking like a freak in this coffee shop. And when my mind has wandered, this album jumps out and grabs my attention, lulling me back in with its dreamy vocals (“Long Run,” I’m looking at you). The album cools down with the late night confession that is “Ricky Millions” with Drea Smith, and closes with “Amphetamine,” the latter half being the hidden track “Krash Kourse,” featuring Noname, Jean Deaux, and Bari. “Amphetamine” is something like a lullaby, laying you down to decompress with hopeful lyrics on reminiscence and persistence.

This album plays out like a theatrical production when you let it open up. Clouds clear the sky everytime I listen to the smokers’ hymn, “Father Son Holy Smoke,” I swear. I’m thrilled with this expression of Smino in the form of an 18 song album, after replaying the teasers that were “S!ck S!ck S!ck” and “blkjptr” as much as I could. With blkswn, Smino has claimed his own unique spot in the rap game, on his own terms. If you’re in the market for an album that is truly an experience, listen to blkswn and get to know Smino a little more intimately.

Must listens:
Glass Flows
Father Son, Holy Smoke
B Role
Long Run