Chats growing up in St. Louis, touring, and being a polymath of the internet age.

Photographer: Ollie Ali // @MrOllieAli
Stylist: Rhys Marcus Jay // @rhysmarcusjay
Producer: Johnson Gold // @Johnson_Gold
Interviewer: Amal AlTauqi & Thomas Woods // @altxuqi & @thomaswoods_
Assisted by: Lynn Mongameli // @mongamelli
Artist: Smino // @smino

“The first time I feel like I’m creative in a day is when I put a fit together.”

By embracing music and culture on his own terms, Smino explores hyperdimensional realms with every cadence and flow at his disposal. Our ability to adjust and grow is largely determined by our deepest feelings and experiences, which propel us forward to create breakthroughs, learn our true identities, and persist. For St. Louis’ Smino, this comes naturally. In the same manner as his musical approach – personal and introspective – PAUSE Magazine welcomed the rapper to further discuss this concept. “I’m responsible for me and in return – how we represent ourselves is going to reflect that.”

Check out the full interview below.

Shirt 1 – Jekeun, Shirt 2 – Qasimi, Bottoms – Rick Owens, Trainers – Prada, Hat – Benny Andallo, Glasses – Carti

How have you been man? how are you doing?

I’m all good.

Are you happy to be welcoming in the new year?

Yeah, definitely! Definitely a new year, birdie.

Did you do a lot to bring the new year in around festive season? Or have you just been chilling?

We had a little party round the crib with some friends, but I didn’t do too much… I tried to ease my way into the year.

Yeah, you just tried to have a quiet one just to welcome it in, makes sense, I did the same thing. Just to get us going, give us a glimpse of what it’s like to be Smino: what’s it like to be you? What are some things that you’re loving about life right now coming into 2023?

I get to travel a lot. I’m about to go on tour so a whole lot of travelling, a whole lot of fit changes, and a whole lot of family. That’s really my whole vibe, it’s really just family and fly s***.

Travelling, is that internationally or just around the United States?

Both! I’m going to go around the United States then I’m going to go over to Europe. I’ve got a European tour in the UK and all that in the spring.

Nice. What country are you most looking forward to visiting?

I would probably say… where’s Amsterdam at again?


Yeah, I want to go to Amsterdam. I can’t wait to go to Amsterdam and smoke some weed.

Yeah, Amsterdam is a good time! It’s a good city to visit man. You’ve been described as a polymath of the internet age; that’s quite a big attribution to you. What does that mean to you when someone says that? 

I don’t even know what that means! I swear, I don’t even know what that means…

It’s someone with a wide breadth of knowledge. That’s the best way I can put it!

I mean yeah, that’s tight as f***. I think I learned a lot from my OG’s, I grew up with my parents and they helped set me off into the world.

Your parents were quite influential growing up, they were also in the music business right? 

My grandfather was in the music business. My parents are musicians but we grew up in church and that’s how we expressed music together and how we shared those moments, more so in church, but it wasn’t like I was watching my dad on tour with people. My grandfather was but I never got to experience rap until I got older.

I guess those musician influences seep into your DNA, it’s almost passed down in a sense. 

100% yeah! That’s where most of everything comes from, the musicianship, you know what I’m saying, it’s just kind of in me forever.

As a person, you circulate a myriad of ideas and thought processes. How do you prioritise what music suits a particular time frame? Is it a reflection of yourself, the outside world, or a bit of both? 

I mean, I just try to stay honest. I’ve got to be able to stand on the words that I’m putting out at the moment, you feel me? Some s*** is too deep to put out, there’s some stuff that I won’t put out because it involves bad experiences with other people and I’m real selective with that. Mostly based of how I feel like I’m representing myself at the moment.

Is it difficult in such a climate like we have now where there’s TikTok to think about? There are all these pressures to have a hit, so do you find it difficult to find music that resonates with you and isn’t pushed by what the masses are doing for trends? 

Hell nah! If you know Smino, you know I’ve never been the kind of guy to try and do what’s going on currently. I feel like I never have a problem with being current because I’m just trying to be consistent with myself and I’m not trying to be current with anything. I don’t give a f***! I love when s*** is cool don’t get me wrong, but I’m never going to go jump on the wave unless it’s like somebody who’s like, “Collab on this song.” I’ve got to f*** with it,  but I’m never just going to jump on the wave. I feel like once the wave goes up, it’s already crashing… it’s almost over by the time you see it.

Yeah, that’s true, I feel like you’ve always been on your own timeline. When we do consider hip-hop and raps importance to the origins of music, there’s always been a strong political undertone and political links, especially when discussing black African Americans and the injustices that they face. For you, you’re quite open in discussing these things in your music and the exploration of your roots, so how important is it to discuss the things that are deeper than music? 

Yeah, I just always feel like the music brings people there and the words keep them there. Most of my music, even if it isn’t political per se, I try to say something that’s going to resonate with a person who’s just walking down the street or just living their life at the moment. Most of the time when I’ve gotten into politics, that’s probably like current s***, it just affected me. I’m just about to go to the studio and it’s on my mind based on how much it affects me. Most of the time, I really try not to turn into the government… we’re on some self-government s***, straight up.

Do you find that channeling that through your music helps you deal with those things and understand them? With your previous work, like Noir (2018) or blkswn (2017), it’s almost like a snapshot of black music history. Do you find that helps you come to terms with things that have happened in terms of black injustices? 

I don’t know, I guess in a way yes, but more so I’m just expressing myself, you feel me.

As an artist, what are your thoughts on how we could facilitate empathy in the next generation for black pride and things of that nature? Do you feel responsibility as an artist at all? 

I mean yeah, it’s my responsibility to just be black, you feel me. What did Kendrick say? I am not your saviour. I’m never trying to be somebody’s guiding light, but if a person does decide to look up to me and follow me then they’ll ultimately be looking up to themselves because that’s what I do. I never want to come across as Martin Luther King, but I’m not completely ignorant to s*** that’s going on and I don’t bite my tongue if I feel a way, but is it my responsibility? It’s like a collective responsibility. I don’t think I can stand there and be like “I am responsible for everything.”  I’m responsible for me and, in return, how we represent ourselves. People are going to reflect that.

Yeah, you’re almost part of the machine. That makes sense. We mentioned before about growing up in St. Louis. Your grandfather was in the music business and your parents were musicians as well. Do you think that their journey is almost part of a prophecy? Do you believe in fate? And that because they did music, you were always going to do music as well?

For sure! It was in my bones, you know what I’m saying? I just play the drums naturally; I was a natural drummer since I was a baby.

Even at school you were voted most likely to be famous. Has anyone from your alumni reached out to you to say “Yeah, we got it right”?

Yeah, I do this concert in St. Louis, it’s like this Christmas charity concert, and usually I see a bunch of people from high school. It’s always love, they’re always showing me love and they’re always like “Hell yeah, we knew you’d do it!”, so that s*** feels fire!

 Gilet – Marni, Top – Stylists’ Own, Shorts – Sean Suen, Trainers – Louis Vuitton, Hat – Smino’s Own

 Suit – Off-White, Top – Marcelo Burlon, Trainers – Louis Vuitton, Sunglasses – Gentle Monster x Hood By Air

So, growing up in Missouri, what are things you feel are underappreciated or overlooked about where you’re from? 

There’s a whole bunch of things, it’s like an underserved place for talent, for scholars, academics, just stars. People are just super f****** smart, a lot of people are changing the world right from St. Louis in the medical field and stuff like that. There was a black lady that found the cure for cancer in St. Louis, it kind of went under the radar. I just feel like people don’t really get to experience St. Louis and see it. That’s why I always rip that s*** and say it so much, so people are like “What’s going on over there?”. I think it’s because people go to Chicago all of the time.

You recently released your fourth commercial album, Luv 4 Rent (2022). Of course, we’ve mentioned blkswn (2017) and Noir (2018), which were widely documented. Does that upside feedback get back to you? Or is there tunnel vision when you’re starting to make new art?

Yeah, people like it a lot! It’s streaming better than any of my other stuff ever has, it’s crazy. I’m just back in the studio really, I don’t really get caught up in it, it’s not for me no more… that’s not my job, to see how other people react. But, it’s cool. I can’t wait to see them on tour, that’s what I like to see, how people feel on the road. Online, it’s like “Damn!”. The internet is too much, you can go down into a rabbit hole, so I really don’t pay attention to that, but it’s all love whenever I do see it.

Do you feel any pressure to produce considering you took a four-year album, break and came back to a different music industry? You’ve put out an album that’s done really well, so do you feel pressure to keep producing at that level?

I never stopped, I’ve got more music to put out than a lot of these people right now. I was just sitting back trying to change labels and s***. I’m not pressured into making s***, I’m literally sitting in my studio in my living room right now, we just do this for fun. I’m never going to be pressured to make.

 Coat – Charles Jeffrey, Glasses – Cartier

Do you think the music industry gives creative control to the artist? Or do you think it needs to? 

I think it’s more on the artist to understand the ways that they sacrifice their creative control before they actually sacrifice their creative control, because you get something where you usually sacrifice your creative control. You feel a reciprocation, but under conditions. Creative control just sounds like some label s*** to me, but I think what really needs to happen is Spotify, Apple Music, all of the streaming services need to up the ante and pay artists more, that’s really what they need to do. When artists get their first bit of traction and they’ve got all these offers and take the money, and they’re like “Why’s it taking so long?”, I feel like that’s more so because people can’t put out music on streaming and see a lot from it at first. So, I think it’s more so on the streaming services and from there, just do good business.

I completely agree. Let’s talk fashion. You’re without doubt one of the best-dressed rappers out there, but we don’t really see you get your flowers… so we want to give your flowers to you. What does fashion do for you? Is it a means of self-expression? Or is it just going out and putting on clothes and going out to boost your confidence? 

I just like fly s***, I like colours, I’ve always been like that. When I was a kid, I had a shiny blue shirt, I just like cool shirts. I’m not trying to be like a fashion legend or anything, I’ve got my style; I dress how I dress. The first time I feel like I’m creative in a day is when I put a ‘fit together and we start from there.

What can we expect from the future? What other pockets of creativity are you looking to get into?

I’m making a cartoon show right now, I’m very excited about it! I’ve just finished the first episode. Hopefully I’ll be previewing that soon.

Any more music coming?

Hell yeah! A whole bunch of stuff. I’ve got a mixtape coming out soon. Right now, I’m just going on tour… we going up this spring for sure.

Who are your top five artists right now?

Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, Dylan.

Follow Smino on Instagram

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Ki Mé says:

    Love This Interview , Big Fan Of Sminos Art & Love His Out Look On It . Really Excited About This Cartoon Thoughh .. My Brain Instantly Stared Singing Class Of 3000 Theme Song Lol

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