After releasing his sophomore project, NOIR, Smino set out on The Hoopti Tour, accompanied by Dreamville rap duo, EarthGang, and longtime collaborator, Phoelix. On Saturday, May 10th, Smino played a sold out show at Philadelphia’s Theatre of the Living Arts (TLA). After the show, Kevin and I reviewed the concert, discussing a range of topics including the evolution of the rapper/singer, performances of masculinity, NBA Centers, and much more! Here’s our conversation:
Stanley: We’ve seen seen Smino and Phoelix a couple of times before when they were a lot less known and polished as artist. Given that context, I was wondering what you thought about the show? Big picture takeaways?
Kevin: Yeah I’ve seen Smino & Phoelix a couple times now and they both were significantly better this time around. But who I was excited to see the most was Earth Gang. I’ve been following these dudes for a while, when they were under the underground basically lol. And, to see them perform at the show was confirmation that they have next (in my mind). When their album Mirrorland drops, I think we will see their ascension hit another level especially with the backing of Dreamville.
But the show itself was flame emojis. Smino and band tore it down. He is charismatic and the crowd showed that by completely loving him. Moving forward, I see can Smino hitting another gear in the future. He has all the tools. Phoelix will continue to be a great producer and make great solo music. All acts killed. 100% satisfied
Stanley: I agree - I thought the show was really well put together! It’s also cool seeing Smino and Phoelix grow as artists and performers. When we first saw Smino he was an opening act for a $3 show, and Phoelix was playing keys and bass for him. Fast forward three years, and Smino’s headlining a sold out show!
I absolutely loved EarthGang! This was my first time seeing them, and I thought their energy was infectious and their show flowed well. They get a lot of OutKast comparisons, which I can see in some ways - they’re a rap duo from Atlanta, with a somewhat eclectic style. I don’t want to put that pressure on them, though. But, I like their music, and I’m looking forward to their album!
Last thing, and it’s not necessarily related to the show, but I love the concept for the “Hoopti Tour.” Smino really leans into his early 00s persona, it’s great lol. Air Force Ones, Allen Iverson era Sixers shorts, the hairstyles, etc. All of the promotional pictures are recreated versions of 90s and early 00s movie covers, the stage is set up like a mechanics shop, and I’ve seen some shows where they have actual cars on stage. You can tell that he and his team put a lot of thought into this tour.
Stanley: What was your favorite moment(s) from the show?
Kevin: It’s funny...I feel like the show had consistent excellence and it’s almost hard to pick one moment. But, I will say seeing Earthgang was it for me. When they performed their song Up from the YouTube jawn Colors, that was their peak moment with the crowd and showed what their next album can sound like.
Stanley: Yeahhhh, I have a lot of moments too lol. I think my top moment was probably when Smino did a rearranged version of Swag Surf - they keyboard player was absolutely going off! After it was I basically came to the realization that I can never hear the song the same again.
Stanley: After the show we were joking about how we would describe Smino to someone that didn’t know who he was. Admittedly, he can be a little hard to describe, and he does a lot of things well. Do you think artists blurring lines will become more common? Is this something particular to black artists?
Kevin: Follow me down this road for a little bit. It’s weird, I see these artists today as the modern big man in the NBA. You have to develop these tools (rapping, singing, producing, etc.) that you may not have needed in the past, so you can appeal to more people because the landscape of artists is so vast. What separates you as an artist is an important factor and it’s evidenced by people like Smino. He is Hip Hop/R&B personified with the black church mixed in.
Also, I don’t know if this is just a 2019 thing because the internet has allowed sounds to travel the world and everyone can sound like everyone. So a lot of the times a geographic sound is lost and because of it, for example, you can sound like a prototypical trap Atlanta rapper and be from Seattle. So idk, the blurring of lines can be a confluence of things. What you think?
Stanley: The comparison between artists and NBA Centers is a great metaphor for how times have changed!!! It’s kind of like when Dirk was shooting a bunch of 3s everybody kind of looked at him crazy, telling him to get down on the block (cueing my inner Shaq and Barkley here). But now, he’s essentially the prototypical big.
So yeah, I guess bigs shooting 3s is kind of like when rappers started to sing more, and the line between rapper and singer became blurred. I remember that being a really big deal in the early-mid 00s. Like, “oh, you a singin nigga” type stuff. There’s a somewhat odd history/relationship between performances of masculinity and blackness, where the act of black men singing being seen as less “masculine.” It wasn’t always that way, but there was a period of time where those lines had to be drawn. Thankfully, I think we’re somewhat beyond such a limited thinking of masculinity now.
In Smino’s case I think he’s legitimately singing and rapping well, though I do think he is a singer at heart.