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smino shows love to south africa in the “reverend” video

April 9, 2020

The “Reverend” visual finds Smino far from home, lounging in a bathtub with a cell phone clutched in one hand à la Rev. Run. And since answering emails from the bathtub (or bed or couch or wherever) has suddenly become the new normal for a lot of us, this feels fitting.

The single, initially released in August 2019, speaks to the conflicting thoughts and emotions of a person who has had to leave the comfort and familiarity of their hometown and tribe in pursuit of success elsewhere. The paranoia you might feel, the walls you have to put up as an artist, Smino neatly sums it all up in the chant-worthy line, “Everybody ridin’ ain’t gon steer you right”.

Between braggadocious riffs about fellatio and sneaking weed on to airplanes, Smino reflects on how his career allows him to put on for his hometown of St. Louis, “I’m bringing the gold to The Arch like McDonald’s” but simultaneously pulls him away from the people, places, and culture that made him who he is, “Lately I been missin’ my area, done got carried away”.

 

Few artists can seamlessly impart a deeply personal idea or emotion while also keeping the energy light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek. For Smino, this ability has become his signature. Sure, you might shed a thug tear or two, but it’s guaranteed you’ll be able to head bob or body roll through it.

Dualistic themes reappear in the visual itself, which was shot entirely in South Africa’s Alexandra Township (Alex, for short). Dripping in gold, with his freshly-oiled twists secured in a silk scarf, the gravely-voiced crooner is whimsically and absurdly juxtaposed with an unpolished backdrop of crumbling brick structures and little boys kicking up dust on their BMX bikes.

Now, it goes without saying (I hope, lol) that the world outside of Africa has been conditioned to conjure up certain assumptions and generalizations about what is actually a diverse and fruitful continent. But if you’ve actually had the opportunity to visit South Africa, dance to Amapiano in Pretoria, visit artist studios in Maboneng, explore the Youth Uprising Memorial in Soweto, then I don’t even need to get into how backward and outdated those misconceptions are.

Similarly, the North Side of St. Louis, where Smino grew up, is known more for violence and crime and less for being a hotbed of artistic expression. Maybe this was the driving force behind the video concept; maybe it was just a case of real recognizing real. Regardless, the end result is a video that puts the mirror up in front of us and shows us what we risk when we discount the potential of a place or a person based on a stereotype.

A possible flipside of this interpretation could be that Smino is challenging the world’s perception of America as “the land of milk and honey”. First world privilege is very real, it’s true, but when mainstream movies, TV shows and magazines depict American life as a diamond-encrusted rom-com, it can be a hard realization that for Black and Brown folks, a lot of the promise of the United States is as fake as the shiny plastic foliage that fills Smino’s bathtub.

Watch the video for yourself and let us know what you think. And definitely show some love to the South African production team over at Flourish and Multiply, as well as all of the models, stylists and artists that brought this thing to life!

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