Sango Amato


afropunk atl: smino’s got charisma and control

October 18, 2019

Smino‘s 45-minute set at AFROPUNK in Atlanta confirmed a thought I’d been parsing a while back: the budding St. Louis star and his band have one of the Blackest rap shows on the road. It’s in the kind of cool that doesn’t require overstating, and makes all shades gravitate towards the groove. It’s in Smino’s camo jacket and red shades, and the way he has a lead singer and a hype man, and how his team can execute a swag surf in a hot-ass tent without playing it out to death. Even at the tragic whim of the warehouse stage’s sound — further marred by lingering technical issues, and a prior incident in which an attendee passed out — Smino ran a master-class of crowd control and cruise control. He even shared his blunt with someone up-front.

Blazing through the heaters in his catalog, Smino remained fine-tuned and unbelievably charismatic. He maneuvers between a preacher-like stage hop and stationary pimp-talk like a St. Louis nigga would; shirt unbuttoned, fans screaming his name whenever he paused for a moment. Undeterred by the stop-starts, Smino and company served a plethora of love songs without the self-seriousness, even leaning into the silliness that makes the banter land lighter on the ears. No matter where one looked, the warehouse was wrapped in a “Zero Fatigue” vibe: beautiful Black people singing of evening plans and finding pleasure. It’s the kinda show that made a tight set feel abrupt in the end, even as fans trickled out. The world wants Smino’s gang to win, as evidenced by the way SiR and Buddy and others flooded the stage to revel in all this slick shit.