Rapper and Singer Smino took a pit stop from Coachella to perform for a sold out crowd at Hollywood's
Fonda Theatre with openers Earthgang and Phoelix.
Though halfway complete, 2019 is proving to be the year of rising new artists. With the Coachella Music and Arts Festival going back to their indie inclusive routes, Black artists like Rico Nasty, Anders0n Paak and SiR were able to elevate their fan base. One artist with a cult following that rose during festival season was St. Louis' own Smino. After hitting the stage during the two weekend extravaganza, Smino took over California with a couple of performances in Santa Ana, San Diego and Los Angeles. Joining him onto the Hoopti Tour was Atlanta's group Earthgang and up and coming artist Phoelix. The three acts performed amazing sets reminiscent of the great performer's before them all without losing their modern-day wave.
Following Smino's career is becoming one of our favorite past times. We were introduced to the young artist via Instagram back in 2017. He had just released his critically acclaimed debut studio album, blkswn. On first sound, the St. Louis native's musical style took us a little off guard, but in the best way possible. Very seldom an artist is able to display all of their amazing talents on their first album and it works so well. Smino does that with blkswn, titling himself as both a rapper and singer. With top charting singles "Blkswn" and "Anita", the album proved to be a successful introduction. The genius behind Smino is his unique voice and flow. Having the gift of a gospel-based voice, a thesaurus-wide vocabulary, and a slight southern accent; Smino's flow is something we've never heard before in the rap community.
Born to a family of musicians, Christopher Smith (Smino) has been preparing to take the stage since he seven-years-old. His talents brought him to open for other acts such as T-Pain and SZA. In November 2018, he dropped his second album Noir. The sophomore production surpassed fans' expectations for the artist. Once again, utilizing his smart lyricism with funk and jazz-inspired beats made Noir a pinnacle moment in Smino's growing career. The neo-soul based hip hop inspired album included many hits like "Z4L", "Klink", and "L.M.F". After the success of the album, Smino announced his second tour.
The Hoopti Tour is currently set up for 33 shows including stops in the United States, England, and Canada. He also announced fellow openers Earthgang and Phoelix. Phoelix is a Chicago based artist who has been linked with fellow artist Noname. The Jack-of-all-trades is an amazing singer, rapper, musician, and producer, with tracks on both Smino's and Noname's albums. The energetic and eclectic duo, Earthgang, has had the spotlight on them since joining J. Cole's Dreamville project. The Atlanta group also has ties to Smino with several collaboration tracks on the way, making them the perfect addition to the tour.
Artistry and storytelling was the driving theme of the Los Angeles' Hoopti Tour. Marketing tactics playing with Noir's theme of Black luxury, beauty, and reality; inspired Smino to create a commercial of him and his crew searching for a Hoopti for the upcoming tour. Fast-forward to an April night in Hollywood where a sold-out crowd was more than excited to see the fresh talent presented on the Fonda Theater's stage. The three acts were almost too perfect of a deal together displaying a new non-mumbling and non-conforming music style. Seeing these three artists at the beginning of their career gave us a comfortable and secure feeling about the future of hip-hop.
Chicago triple threat Phoelix kicked off the night on an old school keyboard set. His voice was both alluring and hypnotizing, so much that it was hard to believe that this was the young artist's first tour ever. He performed a few of his tracks from his 2017 and 2018 albums Tempo and GSPL. A favorite from the night was a performance of his 2018 single "Drip". Drip was created with Phoelix's expression of sexual frustration. An awkward muse yes, but hearing this song live made us Shazam this hit immediately. Just when the audience got used to the singer's voice, he then showed the crowd the multi-instrumental side to him. With already a strong track record as a producer for NoName, Saba, and Smino; we guarantee that you'll be seeing more of Phoelix.
Next on the stage was Dreamville's dynamic duo Earthgang. Earthgang consists of the flamboyant but vocal Johnny Venus and the lyrically talented Doctor Dut. The hip hop duo brought Atlanta to Los Angeles by allowing the usually boujie Hollywood-based crowd to get a little loose during their performance. Fun and energetic, the two rappers performed a couple hits from their trilogy album release Rags, Robots, and Royalty. Eclectic and eccentric, the duo's chemistry was similar to fellow ATL alumni Outkast. The crowd danced and danced till they couldn't any more thanks to Earthgang. Highlights from the act include a performance of the unreleased, yet viral song "Up" ( which was featured on COLORS' music platform) and a dance party with the crowd.
As the crowd was settling and preparing for the main act of the evening, the Fonda curtains rose dramatically with Usher playing softly in the background. The crowd was confused, yet excited for what was to come. Unlike any other modern-day concert we've been to, the Hoopti Tour decided to showcase a comedy act in the middle of the show.
After a 15 minute comedy set, the curtain rose again to introduce female singer Schenay Mosley. She showed off her vocal range by dropping a few oohs and ahs, then Smino graciously appeared from behind the curtains with his live band. Rocking a sky blue fur coat, baggy pants and cornrows , Smino took the audience with him back to the early 2000s. One thing that drew us immediately to Smino was his amazing voice. Let's just say that his live voice is just as, if not more impressive than his recorded copies. Long-standing Smino fans were in for a treat as the rapper took the crowd on a 30-song journey of his young career.
He performed hits like Blkswn's "Anita", "Hoopti", "ZFL" , "Fenty Sex" , "Pizano" and "We Got the Biscuits". The crowd sung along to the underrated rapper's melodic hits and jazz based beats. One special member of the crowd was Smino's father, who was visiting California for the first time ever. Capturing the look in the St. Louis rappers eye when he would catch his proud father recording his performance, was something so beautiful and enchanting. Especially after looking back at the young rapper's history in music. His father was a piano player, his mother was a singer and his grandfather was the original bass guitarist for Muddy Waters. The careers of his relatives were put on the hold to preserve their family, but who knew that structural sacrifice is exactly what it took to get their family name and talent in the spotlight.
However, the brilliance behind Smino is that he simply does not crave the spotlight but for sure deserves it. Both conscious yet content, he uses his music to tackle hard hitting subjects while still knowing what our generational youth is interested in. In between sets of his performance he thanked the crowd for their support but, took some well-deserved time to acknowledge his Black fans within the crowd. He brought young African American fans together in the best way possible, by Swag Surfing of course! He even continued the night with a rendition of Young Joc's "Its Going Down". The young crowd followed through and retracted the same amount of energy that Smino was giving them during his performance. Just as the night was coming to an end Smino announced his last song of the night. The crowd was excited for they knew what was to come. He performed another hit from Noir called "Merlo"t. Though the song is a fan favorite, the crowd was a little disappointed with the closing choice. As Smino and his band members closed house, the crowd chanted one powerful word repeatedly, "Klink, klink, klink". The band members took notice as the drummer set back down with the lead guitarist joining him with a smile. The dj and backup singer both returned to their stations as Smino returned on stage with a big bang. Finally, the crowd got exactly what they wanted as the dj began to play the beginning of Noir standout his "Klink". The crowd went wild, is simply an understatement for how lit the closing performance was.
The three performers killed the Hoopti Tour leaving fans with nostalgic feels and future hopes for the new artists. Everyone is now aware and understanding of why these three artists are listed as the Ones to Watch in 2019/To give you a little preview of what these artists' performances are like, we've made a brief playlist of the Hoopti Tour essentials.
Rapper Chief Keef proves to fans that 2019 will be his year after a new mix tape release and performance at Santa Ana's Observatory.
"Did the beat go off?" No one had to ask that question after rapper Chief Keef took over the stage on Jan. 16th. Keef performed favorites such as 'Faneto", "Love Sosa' and "Don't Like" for over 75 fans at the Santa Ana Observatory. Coming fashionably late, of course, Keef kept the audience satisfied for the end of that Wednesday night. With his release date for his new mix tape being Jan. 18th, Keef also decided to give attendees a sample of what is to come. After attending the performance and constantly playing both new and old records from the artist I am finally reminded and upset about the lack of love that SOSA gets as a rapper. Here are my five reasons why Chief Keep needs more appreciation !
1. Amazing Performer
The Observatory was my first experience watching Chief Keef live. I attempted to see him perform at the major Los Angeles hip hop festival, Rolling Loud. Unfortunately, after waiting 45 minutes in the cold surrounded by anxious fans, I realized that his set was definitely not happening. I admit, I felt defeated and disappointed as a long term fan of the rapper. 'How dare he abandon his fans", I thought. Lucky for me, I was able to spot his next California appearance, the Santa Ana Observatory. Now the Observatory is known for two things: their cheap tickets and hours of sound cloud rappers' performances. So the majority of the time was dedicated for up and coming rappers to display their skills. Hour after Hour, the crowd shouted: "We want SOSA !" Finally, at 11 P.M., Glo Gang artist Tadoe came out as the introductory artist. Performing his top hits, Keef suddenly appeared to perform his cult classic "Faneto" (I'll talk about that a little bit later). An hour of amazing sets and a hype crowd rapping constantly reminded me of the great artist Keef really is. His stage presence alone was impressive and surprisingly crowd friendly. After performing the beginning snippets of his songs, he would walk to the nearest fan with their phone in their hands and record a video of himself performing in the camera. He did this several times during the performance of his songs. The hits were non stop and Chief Keef shared with audience members hits back from 2012, where we were first introduced to the rapper.
2. First of His Kind
I was first introduced to the Chicago rapper as a sophomore in high school. At first, I was completely caught off guard by his sound. A lot of "bangs" and "gangs" shouted over a low constructed beat. " No way, this guy can make it", I thought. Listening to "Kobe", "Bang" and "3Hunna", repeatedly for over three days made me understand that even though this artist was different he had something special and unlike no other. The attention the rapper was getting was both positive and negative. Some people ridiculed him based off of his violent lyrics and unflattering portrayal of raw Chicago. Though his hard-hitting style ruffles some feathers, his talent is certainly undeniable. Being the first of his kind he took a lot of hits from critics, but with those hits, he created a new generation of gangsta rap. Notable artists such as Lil Pump and Lil Uzi Vert has gone on record to say that they were greatly inspired be Keef. Mumble rap was initiated by the "Chriaq Legend".
3. Introduction of Chicago Drill
From the melodic rhymes of Common to the fast-paced flow of Twista, we all learned that Chicago artistry comes in all shapes and forms. Between the late '90s and early '00s, Chicago was painted as the Windy City with a smooth sound. Slick and inspired by East Coast jazz, this style of the city introduced us to hip hop heavy hitters such as Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco. These artists created a sound known as alternative hip hop. At that time, that was the only wave everyone was focusing on from Chicago. Then out of nowhere, Chief Keef releases his first top hit "I Don't Like". This song became a Chicago hit after finally portraying the violent reality of a Chicago native youth. The song caught West's attention and he remixed the track with Keef, Pusha T, Jadakiss, and Big Sean. This introductory to the rapper showed the world a new Chicago style called "Drill Music", a form of repetitive Trap. As a prominent leader to this new style, Keef has elevated the careers of fellow Chicago natives and elevated the storytelling behind the vicious cycle of living in Chicago.
4. Young Entrepreneur
At the age of 15, Keith Cozart (at the time) dropped out of high school. Already popular in the South Side gang life , Keef turned his lifestyle into a career. After creating countless of hits and attempting to dodge the court room, Keef decided to created countless of growing businesses all under the age of 25. His first business venture is his own label Glory Boyz Entertainment (GBE) also known as Glo Gang. In his label he has signed various young artists such as Tadoe, Ballout. Tray Savage and many more. Besides his own label, he is also currently working on his own clothing line that is planned to be release in the spring of 2019.
5. Faneto> Mo Bamba & Sicko Mode
"What song is bound to get everyone hype anywhere they go?" This is the age-old question. Some of the top answers include Mo Bamba, Sicko Mode, and Dreams and Nightmares. On paper those songs are amazing, but neither of those songs brings the same energy as Chief Keef's Faneto. Back at the Observatory, Several DJs attempted to soothe the tenacious crowd over, but the only thing that made the crowd distracted from Keef's tardiness was this 2014 hit.
Needless to explain or say more, I'll let these quick videos prove why this song is better than its current competitors.