Review: Smino’s YouTube concert lacks energy

Review: Smino's YouTube concert lacks energy

The St. Louis native rapper performed a pre-recorded concert for SU students that left much to be desired.
Published: August 23, 2020 | Updated: August 26th, 2020 at 5:22 pm
Smino performing an exclusive virtual concert for SU students on Aug. 22, 2020,

Flanked by a Mortal Kombat arcade video game and cartoons projected on the wall, Smino delivered a short set of six songs Saturday night during a pre-recorded concert for Syracuse University students that was streamed on YouTube.

The St. Louis native rapper whose real name is Christopher Smith Jr., kicked the set off with a song titled “Fronto Isley.” The song had a simple hook, featuring the lyrics “rap good, smoke good, f— good, look good, s— good,” not quite living up to the hype SU students anticipated from the first concert of the school year.

In keeping with a casual vibe, Smino stood alone in front of a microphone in what appeared to be a basement setting lit primarily by a bright orange lighting fixture for the entire performance. His attire — basketball shorts and a yellow plaid button-up — felt simple as well.

He called the performance, the “Syr-Acoustic” set, but it was just Smino with his backing tracks performing. The cartoon clips projecting behind him did bring some visual diversity to the show.

The rapper followed “Fronto Isley” with a song titled “Summer Salt” from his 2018 album, “NOIR.” At this point, Smino whipped out his iPhone and set it up on the Mortal Kombat machine, recording himself on video.

Smino’s rapping was exceptional, but when he sang the bridges of his songs, his vocals were shy and breathy, and even difficult to hear at times. Even in his basement, Smino did not have a strong singing voice. He relied mainly on the backing track, leaving viewers to wonder if his in-person live performances offer more energy.

The highlight of his set was the fifth song of the performance, titled “Pizano.” With very impressive, fast verses, and a more original beat than some of his other songs, “Pizano,” brought some variation to what was an otherwise uneventful set. No doubt it can be difficult to bring the same type of in-person energy to a virtual concert, but Smino did not seem to make much of an effort.

He didn’t move from his mic at all during the half-hour set, and his songs were simple and mostly slow. Between some songs, he would stop and make a comment, but he spoke so quietly it was difficult to hear through laptop or headphone audio.

He closed the set with two of his most popular songs, “Wild Irish Roses” and “Klink.” It was clear that Smino’s performance stamina was weakening during these last two songs. His rapping slowed down, and his already questionable vocals were pitchy. “Klink” is a much more upbeat song than Smino’s other tracks, this was an opportunity to do more than just stand in front of his microphone, but he stayed seated.

Smino’s performance was nothing special, especially in comparison to the set King Princess performed via Zoom for SU students back in May. After “Klink,” he closed his set by saying, “I love doing this s—, I wish I could do this s— in person.”

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is the Entertainment Lead Producer for The NewsHouse. She is a graduate student in the Goldring Arts Journalism and Communication program and an alum of the University of Pittsburgh.