Smino’s debut album, 2017’s blkswn, introduced the world to the most original voice out of St. Louis since that of Cornell Haynes, Jr. But aside from rapping and singing, Smino and the aforementioned Nelly have little in common. Yet Smino is able to speak to life in St. Louis—and in a much more ambitious sense, the black American experience—on a level akin to the city’s biggest export to date.
Smino’s second album, NOIR, is a continuation of the themes of blkswn. Through a deluge of flows and varying tenors, he cites touchtones of the proud Midwest culture in which he grew up, and he does it over the rap, jazz, funk, and (most prominently) R&B compositions he chooses to ride. There are allusions to his influences throughout, but none more overt than when he borrows slang from Nelly himself for “LOW DOWN DERRTY BLUES.”