Album Review: Smino’s ‘NOIR’

Smino experiments with sound throughout his new album to explore his versatility as an artist.

Smino, born Christopher Smith Jr., came onto the music scene around six years ago, originally gaining notoriety with his “blkswn” album in 2017. His style, typically a perfect mix of funky R&B vocals and colorful hip-hop beats, is creative and experimental. Additionally, he puts an emphasis on prominent elements of black culture, specifically in St. Louis, where he grew up, throughout his discography, occasionally sneaking in cultural references. Smino’s unique style is what makes his music stand out, and his new album, “NOIR,” only further diversifies his sound.

“NOIR” is a refreshing piece of work, with each song sounding completely different from the last one. While one song will have you bobbing your head to a futuristic beat, the next one will likely have you belting out notes to his soulful vocals. Listening to the album the whole way through is an experience, as it truly feels as if the artist is trying to immerse you in the artistry of the music and the soothing beats. From the unique songs he includes and the many comedic snippets/cultural references he sprinkles throughout the album, he creates a diverse body of music that brings a new perspective of what a hip-hop album can sound like.

Having listened to all the songs in “NOIR” several times already, I’ve found my own personal favorites —“KLINK,” “Z4L,” “KRUSHED ICE” and “MF GROOVE.” Each of these songs, although pretty different in sound and style, all exhibit Smino’s ability to produce consistent bops. “KLINK” stands out due to the experimental guitar riff used in the beat and the catchy lyrics throughout the song — it has a unique sound to it that really shows the individuality in his sound. The same can be said for “Z4L,” as the soothing beat and the catchiness of the lyrics create an infectious song that gets stuck in your head easily.

What makes “KRUSHED ICE” interesting is the layering of vocals in the chorus and the coolness of the beat. The lyrics throughout also make it particularly attractive, giving the song an interesting edge. Also featuring a layering of vocals is “MF GROOVE,” although the vocals in this song are much different. Throughout the track, Smino and Ravyn Lenae’s ability to harmonize perfectly creates a beautiful, almost ethereal R&B sound to the song. The guitar solo at the end of the song is also creatively passionate, giving it an artistic vibe. The difference in the sound of the songs in this album really shows Smino’s versatility as an artist.

While these were the songs I felt made “NOIR” for me, I also feel like there were a few filler songs throughout. However, I would still probably listen to the album through on shuffle, as the instrumentals throughout the piece of work are really what make it for me. Smino’s ability to create a different sound with each song he makes shows his uniqueness as an artist, and I’m excited to see what else he has in store for us soon.

Edited by Siena DeBolt | sdebolt@themaneater.com

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