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.