For most people, the thought of providing opening support and performing before Top Dawg Entertainment songstress SZA would be daunting. But Smino is no stranger to the art of touring and the humble St. Louis rapper is ready to do a whole lot more.
The 25-year old hip hop artist has spent the past year both opening for Mick Jenkins on tour and headlining his own top spot in support of his recently released debut album, blkswn. As soon as SZA’s ‘Ctrl’ tour is completed, Smino is heading back out on the road with T-Pain for the autotune legend’s highly anticipated acoustic tour.
We sat down with the St. Louis rapper before his show at Toronto’s REBEL and discussed staying healthy, learning to sing and being featured on Frank Ocean’s blonded RADIO on Beats 1.
Sidewalk Hustle: How did music make its way into your life?
Smino: Truthfully, I grew up in church. As a young kid, if you grew up around church, the music is what excites you first. Seeing the music, seeing the drummer – that was my introduction to music. My family, my household and my immediate surroundings were always surrounded by music.
Did anyone teach you how to sing?
My mom would always say “Why don’t you sing? I know you can sing.” I used to be on some “nah, I’m a drummer” shit so I would just sing to myself, but choir taught me so many things – how to harmonize, learn different parts, what goes where. It wasn’t until I started recording that I wanted to see how far I could take my vocal range and all the different things I could do
Was it recording that really made you want to pursue music?
Yeah, my pops copped me FruityLoops when I was young, we’d have beat battles and shit. But yeah, doing anything over and over like that makes you want to reap the benefits of your work. Being in the booth, being on the road, exposing myself to all the places it could possibly take me – that’s it.
Over the past year you’ve toured with Mick Jenkins and headlined your own tour – now you’re touring with SZA and getting ready to tour with T-Pain. What’s been the biggest change in your process of getting prepared to head out on road?
I’m way more prepared to prepare, you feel me? I never knew what to expect before but now I know what to expect. I gotta get apple cider vinegar, honey, shit to make sure I’m healthy. Before, I’d just be like “I’m gonna pack a bunch of Backwoods, all the weed I can find.” Now it’s just “let me get some tea.” The key to staying on the road is staying healthy.
Does touring and interacting with fans in different places inspire the music you make?
Yeah, my bro was just saying “I noticed you been speaking another language in every song lately.” I mean, on my new stuff I spoke a different language on a couple [songs] but that’s just from picking stuff up. I also make music based on imagery so being here is very inspiring. Being here in Toronto by the lake has me imagining performing over water, like a stage over water.
Do you record on the road?
I’ll record wherever I can, but I do like to keep a solid place to cook. When I’m on the road I usually record in a hotel. This time around I brought my engineer on the road so he can work on delays and distortion while we cook.
I saw that video of you bringing out T-Pain at your show in Atlanta – how did that even happen?
T-Pain followed me on Twitter on some random shit and then hit me up. He said he wanted to come to my show and I was like “what the fuck?” Then, he somehow got my number and hit me up the day of the show like “Pizzle here” – I guess he calls himself Pizzle haha.
He said he was down to come out and play a couple of songs so I was down. I was covering his song “Chopped N Skrewed” on the tour so I asked him to do “Can’t Believe It.” Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge T-Pain fan. It was a moment, for real.
Your song “blkjuptr” was featured on an episode of Frank Ocean’s blonded RADIO show on Beats 1 – did you know that was going to happen beforehand?
I woke up and people were hitting my phone like “bro, Frank Ocean played your shit.” A lot of artists have been spreading my work to other artists. I still haven’t done a song with him but that’s Frank Ocean, he’s probably somewhere. He’s probably watching us right now.
Either way, he’s hearing it. You never really know who’s listening.
Get familiar with Smino’s music below!