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Tour Tales | Smino talks taking people to church, white people saying the N-word at shows and more

Keith Nelson Jr

 // May 8, 2019

Chachiii

Musicians are barely getting a slice of music industry revenue, largely eating off of live performances instead. For 'Tour Tales,' we dig into the rider requests, delayed shows, diligent preparation, and future of touring by talking with the multitude of people that move behind the scenes. Record executives, photographers, tour managers, artists, and more all break down what goes into touring and why it's still so vital to the livelihood of your favorite artists. What happens on tour stays on 'Tour Tales.'


Smino is not next. Smino is now. The 27-year-old virtuoso born Christopher Smith Jr. has been rapping since he was in the first grade. His flow can go from calm and methodical to zany and animated in a matter of seconds, and his shows are imbued with that same spirit. So, if you come to a Smino show, expect the unexpected.

"It's church. It's a rap show. It's a rock concert. It's like the first day of school. You're going to see everybody [looking] fly. You might find you a boo," Smino told REVOLT TV. "[There are] a lot of girls. I think I credit that to SZA. I did this tour with SZA. A lot of girls got to see me perform on that tour. There are so many pretty black girls at my shows."

In this installment of "Tour Tales," we caught up with Smino hours before his April 16 show at The Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles, California to discuss his stance on white people saying "nigga" at his shows, how important touring is to his career and much more.



You've been rapping since the first grade. But, how long have you been performing music?

Since about 15 years old in my high school. I bought a band, a drummer, and I was performing with my homie Bari who is on the 'Z4L' song. That's the first time I had people like, 'Damn, this nigga be rapping.' I performed this song I made called 'Feel Me.' It's an old ass song I made back in eighth grade. I was recording back then, too.

What was the first show after your debut project, Blkswn, where you realized your life changed based on the reception and crowd?

Recently at Coachella. My daddy flew out here for the first time. The nigga was onstage, while I was playing my last song and he turned up. I looked at tens of thousands of people in the crowd and my daddy at the same time and I'm like, 'Yeah, shit different.'

Smino premieres “blkswn” at Red Bull Sound Select’s A Quest for Love Tour – Red Bull 20 Before 17
Red Bull Music & Culture

That's dope. Live shows have always been huge for you. You premiered your 'BLKSWN' song before you put it out at this Red Bull event in December 2016.

How the fuck you know that?

I do my job well. Have you premiered songs live before they came out since then?

Nobody knows it. You're in front of them trying to give it to them. I might do it tonight [at the Los Angeles show]. But, I might not. I have to get the band sharp. On that song, I ain't never show it to them and I don't just throw things at them [last minute].



Is this a song from a new project?

Yeah, a new album. I dropped NØIR in November. I make music.

Is there a song that popped off live and surprised you?

'Anita,' nigga. The fuck? In the climate we're in? I didn't know. I thought it was a tight song. I didn't know it was going to be my biggest fucking song. It's actually not my biggest song. My biggest song is 'Wild Irish Rose' now.

Wild Irish Roses - Smino (Live at The Fillmore SF April 9)
Wells Lucas Santo

When did you know 'Anita' was big?

When all these cool black girls kept following me and they were like, 'Oh my god. I love this song.' It literally was a bunch of girls that let me know it was hot.

EarthGang told me in their Tour Tales interview that it was at the Dreamville sessions when the idea of y'all going on tour together came about.

Yeah, one of the people with them [was] like, 'Aye, you know EarthGang needs to be on tour with you?' I was like, 'Would they go on tour with me? They're popping popping. They got their own shit.' He was like, 'Yeah, they would. We out here.' I went in the next room and asked, 'Hey, Olu [Johnny Venus of EarthGang's real name]. You trying to go on tour?' He was like, 'Nigga, hell yeah.' I was like, 'Bet.' I asked Dot and he was like, 'Hell yeah.' That was it.

How is it being on tour with them?

It's lit. We're not on the same bus. Them niggas got the shows lit. Every night, there are new fans that they have that I don't have. We're sharing fans. It's a lot of different people in the crowd... (inaudibly mouths 'white people')... that wouldn't usually be there. My crowds are so black, it's damn near amazing to see.



Are there any things y'all do after shows in terms of hanging out?

Nah, them niggas are professional. They be going to bed. Olu is vegan and he doesn't smoke anymore. I don't really smoke on tour, but I smoke. Dot, he only smokes blunts and I don't smoke blunts. We're cool. We be kicking it. We made a song in Chicago on this tour. It's so fire. Monte Booker made the beat... I want to drop it. We'll see.

Do you not smoke on tour for performance reasons?

You ever been to one of my shows?

Yeah. I went to one at Afropunk.

You ain't seen me on this tour. I've got a lot better. I've learned a lot. You ever feel more comfortable doing something? That's how I feel. I feel like I'm 1000% in my bag onstage.

To that point, are there things you did early on when performing that you look at as rookie mistakes now?

Hell yeah. Hella shit. I used to cup the mic. Jumping in the crowd, too. I messed up my foot doing that. It's not like I jumped and fell. I don't fall. I was moshing with some big niggas and I'm not a big nigga. Cracked my foot, so I was on crutches for my first headlining tour. But, I put the baby Air Force 1s on my crutches.



What's your favorite song to perform and why?

I got this song called 'Coup Se Yern.' It's not on an album. I don't know, I feel like JAY-Z or something. 'Z4L' is also in my top three. After that first chord, the whole crowd be up.

Beside EarthGang, everyone is waiting for what you, Saba and Noname are cooking up. Do y'all have plans of going on tour?

Honestly, yeah, but not about a tour. We spoke about different things like music, shows. It's a thing where we're friends first, so there's no pressure on nobody. We never pressure each other to do it or finish it. We're just doing it.

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2Ø19 .

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At that Afropunk show I went to, you told the crowd, 'Don't worry white people. You can get lit, too' or something to that effect. Are you conscious of the demographics in your crowd?

Yeah, I don't say it some nights. I was in Salt Lake City and I couldn't say it when there were eight niggas there. The thing about it is, when one of your favorite artists starts seeing success and they have all the white kids come to your show, and you're able to get the crowd full of black kids up there rocking, I still say, 'Hey, all my black people.' They be like, 'Hell yeah, nigga. We in this hoe.' It go up every time. If a white person get mad at me [for] saying that to my black people, then they're terrible.

Flip side of that is Kendrick Lamar bought a white girl onstage at a show and had her recite his verse and then, stopped her because...

She said 'nigga.'



Yeah. Do you ever experience things similar to that with white people in your crowds? How do you feel, if you do?

I don't give a fuck. Them niggas are going to leave and say 'nigga.' With me, if you're at the show and you end up saying 'nigga,' I'm not going to be like, 'Hey! Stop the music. Put them out the fucking show.' I'm just going to be like, 'Ha, look at this nigga.' This shit just happened to me. I was in this white nigga's face rapping my shit. I was about to get to the point where I say 'nigga' and I had to turn because I [knew] he [was] about to say this shit.

You're becoming one of the premier rappers of the new era of hip hop.

Really? Niggas be calling me an R&B singer.

I don't know about that because I heard you were at the Dreamville Sessions and was bodying verses. Do you know of any songs you recorded there that are going to shut things down when released?

This how that shit was going. You'd do some shit, boom, come back and it's four niggas on the song. They kind of be taking people off shit. They told me I'm on a few songs. They hit me up.

We need to hear that ASAP. How does your family feel about you becoming an artist?

Proud. Super proud. Step by step, I'm the same person I've always been. (Smino's dad interjects, 'Very proud of him.')

That's beautiful. I saw a picture of Playboi Carti's rider from Coachella. What's your rider like?

Oh, I got white tees, Air Force 1s. I had blunts on it, I don't know where they at. Alkaline water only. Don Julio tequila. Freshly cut watermelon in a bowl.

Do you feel like touring is the biggest part of your career?

Yessir. But, I also got satin hoodies. I make a lot of money off hoodies. I sell these hoodies with satin on the inside, so you can keep your hair together when you fall asleep. They're called Silk Pillows. Them shits go up. I don't want to disclose how crazy they are because of the government. I made a lot of money off of that.



What's the craziest thing a fan has done at a show?

It was this white nigga. Of course, it was a white nigga. I was on tour with Mick Jenkins. This nigga somehow gets passed all of the security, comes downstairs to the green room. I walk in the room and I see him pulling his pants off, ball ass naked on the couch. So, I'm like, 'Nigga, you got four seconds to leave this room.' He was like, 'Oh, I'm on too many drugs. I'm sorry.' He was just butt naked in Mick Jenkins' green room. I don't think Mick knew.

How would you describe a Smino show?

It's church. It's a rap show. It's a rock concert. It's like the first day of school. You're going to see everybody [looking] fly. You might find you a boo. A lot of girls. I think I credit that to SZA. I did this tour with SZA. A lot of girls got to see me perform on that tour. There are so many pretty black girls at my show.

Smino - “Z4L” - Hoopti Tour - Varsity Theater
Brownson Arebojie

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