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Neo-soul rapper Smino combines whimsical wordplay with funk, hip-hop, and soul influences and applies these elements to a sonic language all his own. 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. A heavily collaborative artist, Smino shows up as a featured artist as often as he brings in featured artists for tracks of his own, joining forces with Doechii, J. Cole, and others on his third studio album, 2022's Luv 4 Rent. 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. Smino released his first official EP, the sexually charged S!Ck S!Ck S!Ck, that October, quickly following it 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. Smino promoted the effort on tours supporting SZA and T-Pain through the end of the year. In 2018, he issued "New Coupe, Who Dis?" with Chicago emcee Mick Jenkins. That November, he released his second full-length, NOIR, which was his first to enter the Billboard 200. An EP, High 4 Da Highladys, arrived in 2019, as did the single "Reverend." The following year, Smino released his second mixtape, She Already Decided. He also joined with Monte Booker and the Drums for the Madden NFL 21 game soundtrack song "Backstage Pass." Throughout 2020, he collaborated with JID, Doja Cat, Ari Lennox, and many others. In November of 2021, Smino issued another track, "I Deserve" featuring NOS, and revealed that he'd signed a deal with Motown Records, sharing the title of his upcoming third album Luv 4 Rent in December of 2021. The album was released in October of the following year.
© Neil Z. Yeung /TiVo


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