Rolling Loud 2018: Smino

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Because of unforeseen traveling issues, according to Rolling Loud’s Twitter page, Philadelphia-based rapper Tierra Whack was unable to provide the antidote to the aggressive and at times hypermasculine energy of the festival performers before her time slot. Instead, for her replacement, the dial was turned up and snapped off with Members Only — a hip-hop collective with names such as Tank Head, Killstation and the now deceased XXXTentacion.

But Smino came to the rescue. Self-described as playing “futuristic funk” and “soulful rap,” the 26-year-old St. Louis-based rapper’s sound and voice is reminiscent of his contemporary, Chance the Rapper, but with an overall emphasis that it’s for the bedroom.

“My music is positive,” Smino said in an interview with Rolling Stone.

And this fresh positivity and sensitivity permeated into the thick, cannabis-infused air at the Dryp Stage with songs such as “Anita” and “Netflix & Dusse.” “I got a pizza on the way, bae, bae,” Smino melodically rapped. And without any elaborate or chaotic projections in the background, the rapper was left with solely his setlist and his voice to provide variety and color.

Some efforts to do so were more effective than others. His performance of “blkswn” sufficiently showed the reaches of his pitch — going high when he said, “I need that guarantee,” then effortlessly going back to low without a break in his voice.

But his cover of Nelly’s 2000 single “E.I.,” meant to cater to any ‘90s babies in the crowd, was fruitless. The audience was unable to complete the lyrics when Smino gestured to them to follow along. It turns out a decade can make a huge difference.

But all in all, acts like Smino added a diversity of sound that was necessary for the musical festival. While some may have found Smino’s performance abrasive and disruptive to the energy that, up until then, had been mostly fuelled by bangers or party anthems, others surely welcomed the smooth transition toward bedroom rap.

Contact Lloyd Lee at [email protected]. Tweet him at @helloydlee.