The Break Presents: Smino
Wesley Snipes' big boss character Nino Brown in New Jack City had a hand in rising St. Louis rapper Smino's moniker.
"Smino is a variation of Smith. In high school everyone would call me Smi," he tells XXL. "I said some shit, I called myself Smino Brown like Nino Brown [from New Jack City] and Smino just kind of stuck."
Thankfully, the rapper isn't following in the footsteps of the character in the 1991 famed flick. Instead, Smino has his eye on a lasting rap career considering he was seemingly born into it. His father plays keys, his mother sings, his older cousin toured the world and his grandfather is a Hall of Fame blues bassist player. Music is in his blood.
So when Smino made the decision to pursue a music career, he had a goal in mind. He moved to Chicago, met engineer Chris “Classick” Inumerable and helped start Zero Fatigue, a collective of artists from Chicago and St. Louis who are looking to spread their refreshing sound.
"Zero Fatigue is a bunch of my friends from Chicago and St. Louis," says Smino. "We pretty much would be cool if we didn’t make music, we’re all real cool. It’s a bunch of people who could stand alone and we mutually just decided to do this shit together. We actually just officially became a company."
After releasing two impressive EPs, blkjuptr and S!CK S!CK S!CK, 2016 looks to be a promising year for Smino. Get to know the rapper's roots, his connection to Kanye West and his goal to remold radio.
Hometown: St. Louis
I grew up listening to: "I grew up listening to a lot of gospel music, shit you hear on Water Colors Radio. My dad liked all that smooth jazz, so a lot of jazz, a lot of gospel, a lot of rap.
My granddaddy is a bass player; he’s in the Blues Hall of Fame. My daddy plays keys, my mother sings, my big cousin, she toured the world singing. So I just kind of like, shit man, I might as well do music then. I started recording and really making and getting my music down at 13. I was really every day with it by the time I was 13. What made me want to do music was I just saw how happy everyone in my family was doing it. What made me want to take it to another level was like [seeing them] so good at it. There were people that were real good at it that [my family] was better than and they making money. Let me just try to really stay on it and I wanted a different way to live.
A major inspiration when I was younger was a couple of things. One of them was Kanye doing whatever the fuck he wanted to on such a big level. Another inspiration was my big cousin Drea Smith, she was on the Glow in the Dark tour with ‘Ye, she was signed with Lupe, she did a whole bunch of shit early. She was on Jay Leno, just seeing her doing all this cool shit really inspired me. Especially when it’s your big cousin you seen who grew up with the big glasses."
Most people don’t know: "Most people don’t know that I read every Harry Potter book and I’m a straight drummer too; I’m a full-fledged 100 percent drummer. I started playing drums when I was like two, beating on tables and shit. My momma always used to tell me this story. I set a whole drum set up with dishes before. I had the cups, the pots and I like even had a tupperware bowl on the floor that I would kick like a bass drummer. I had exceptional rhythm for like a 3-year-old."
My style has been compared to: I say my sound is more futuristic funk, rap funk. If people or if I would compare my sound to any art that has came out before, I would Dungeon Family-esque. But now a days if they were inspired by the shit that is coming out now; soulful rappy shit."
Standout moment or song to date: "The song I see people gravitate to the most is this song I got called 'Raw.' I don’t know why, it’s a real vulgar song. It’s completely about unprotected sex [laughs]. People like unprotected sex though."
My goal in hip-hop is to: "One of my goals is, I know its kind of silly, to get rid payola, or just try to lead to make the radio different. I feel like we make music that could go mainstream but it’s doesn’t necessarily sound like mainstream. I want to remold what radio sound like really. I know it’s a big as goal but I feel we can do that with our collective."
I’m going to be the next: "I’m going to be the next voice of the city, St. Louis. At the end of this year I got to go on and sell out The Pageant. Since I was a little kid, I wanted to see my name on the marquee and see that. That’s crazy line; it’s a crazy venue. We sold out my first headline show in St. Louis in January earlier this year. I was like, 'We going to come back this year and we’re going to sell out ThePageant.' I can see that happening.
I have my project coming out and I’m playing a huge festival this year. I’m going to Europe, New Zealand, a bunch of fuckin’ traveling this summer."
Standout Song: "Menu"
S!CK S!CK S!CK EP