Smino is the best thing to come out of St. Louis since Nelly, and it’s not even close.
2017’s blkswn marked Smino’s arrival, 2018’s NOIR proved he’s only getting better with time, and his 2019 feature run and work with Ghetto Sage showcases an artist ready to take over the upcoming decade.
With that, Smino’s reputation as a guest feature artist is impressively consistent. The Zero Fatigue leader never phones-in a verse. Ever. Smino always goes above-and-beyond to elevate the track.
What’s even more impressive is Smino seems to continually challenge his vocal range and flexibility. Catch Smi appearing over a wide variety of sounds with a bevy of artists. Whether it’s a trunk-rattling banger alongside Cousin Stizz, a soulful duet with SiR or a sugar-trap anthem cut in the company of Doja Cat, Smino comes ready to rap with his best foot forward.
Just as we did with Saba in September, we decided to rank the top 10 guest features of Smino’s already noteworthy career. Enjoy.
Editor’s Note: Only songs featuring other vocal acts were considered, meaning we did not include titles such as Sango’s “Khlorine” and Monté Booker’s “Red Velvet.”. Smino’s appearance on Ghetto Sage’s “Häagen-Dazs” was also not included because of Smino’s standing as a group member and not a guest feature.
10. “Troop,” tobi lou featuring Smino
Album: Troop — Single
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Smino is one smooth motherfucker. His verse on “Troop” is no exception. The rapper settles into the atmosphere of the song as if it were of his creation. He flexes humorously clever punchlines (“Don’t give a fuck who fuckin’ Kylie / Generous with the dish I feel like Kyrie”), a stop-start flow that spills over the instrumental’s keys, and the hazy aura of a weed-smoking, self-assured rapper that doesn’t have to try hard to sound dope. We need more Smino and tobi on wax.
9. “Ace,” Noname featuring Smino & Saba
Album: Room 25
Release Date: September 14, 2018
Smino opens up “Ace” much in the same way a songbird welcomes the rising sun. The St. Louis native’s relaxed and melodic hook makes way for a rap verse employing playful wordplay and elated alliteration. Smi’s delivery perfectly matches the instrumental’s natural lightheartedness. His performance showcases his fluency in tip-toeing the line between rapping and singing. Smino’s hook remains the foundation of the song, providing the necessary bridge between Noname and Saba’s verses.
8. “Eternal,” Chance The Rapper featuring Smino
Album: The Big Day
Release Date: July 26, 2019
Though he hails from St. Louis, Smino is one of Chicago’s tried-and-true, adopted sons. Therefore, it’s fitting Smi makes a memorable appearance on Chance The Rapper’s debut album, The Big Day. Smino slides in smoothly alongside the headliner on a bass-heavy, wholesome cut. “Eternal” is the perfect spot for the crooner to reflect on women, fame, and relationships through a captivating monotone delivery, eventually giving way to his signature soaring vocals. Plus, we got a joyful performance on the Ellen Show.
7. “Anonymous,” Cousin Stizz featuring Smino
Album: Trying to Find My Next Thrill
Release Date: August 14, 2019
Rarely do we hear Trap Smino. The 28-year-old artist often elects to perform his lyrical acrobatics over more bright instrumentals. Smi’s appearance on Cousin Stizz’s “Anonymous” is so satisfying because his approach is so rare. Smino jumps on the Kenny Beats-produced banger with reckless abandon and tears the track apart effortlessly, as if this were his sound palette all along. And, as always, Smino comes armed to the teeth with face-lifting bars and inescapable melodies, adding the perfect complement to Stizz’s hardened performance.
6. “LA Lisa,” SiR featuring Smino
Album: Chasing Summer
Release Date: August 30, 2019
To quote Smino himself, “‘LA Lisa’ one of my favorite verses I ever did.” Smino makes the distinction between his rapping and singing black-and-white on “LA Lisa,” alternating on-and-off between a stretched out, slow-building melody and four-bar stanzas. He rides the rhythmic thudding of the instrumental’s backbone with effortless elegance, constantly speeding up and slowing down the pace of the song on a whim. At the same time, Smino is in his thematic bag, using creative descriptions (“Get a lil’ ratchet, stay over, color your box / Don’t tell your daddy, he might go Crayola”) to expertly weave his way through late-night rendezvous with his muse, Lisa.
5. “Won’t Bite,” Doja Cat featuring Smino
Album: Hot Pink
Release Date: November 7, 2019
Smino is chameleon-like in his ability to blend into his surroundings naturally. On “Won’t Bite,” Smino harnesses the song’s sugary, uptempo pacing to hold an exhibition in flow-switching, loosing three different distinct flows across his appearance. The St. Louis product taps into the full range of his delivery, affirming his ability to fluctuate between soaring harmonies and measured rhymes easily.
4. “Sacrifices,” Dreamville with EARTHGANG & J. Cole, featuring Smino & Saba
Album: Revenge of the Dreamers III
Release Date: July 5, 2019
“Sacrifices” was a defining moment in hip-hop. EARTHGANG’s Olu, Smino, and Saba, three of rap’s brightest up-and-comers, turned in praise-worthy performances alongside J. Cole on the closer to a collaboration album that held the attention of the entire genre. For his part, Smino relies on his soulful, St. Louis rasp to deliver a verse that’s packed tight with witty wordplay and honest confessionals. From positioning his music as collard greens inside of speakers to reminiscing on his Missouri childhood, there’s perhaps no verse in Smi’s catalog that more accurately defines the heart of his artistry.
3. “World In My Hands,” Saba featuring Smino & Legit
Album: Bucket List Project
Release Date: April 20, 2016
Saba and Smino’s first collaboration remains one of their finest to date with the two like-souls using the 2016 record to reflect on life with refreshing authenticity. They also flash their unlimited potential as leaders of the next generation. Smino follows Saba’s lead by using several different cadences and flows coming after one of the most memorable opening bars of his career (“My beautiful dark twisted fanta-leaf / Burn like the pain when you see me grow”).
2. “TenderHeaded,” Cam O’bi featuring Smino
Album: TenderHeaded — Single
Release Date: January 20, 2018
The thesis of “TenderHeaded” is the enduring experience of childhood and loss of innocence. The instrumental of “TenderHeaded” is a pure hip-hop drum pocket, blanketed by a high-pitched sample, culminating in the perfect storm for Smino to record one of his greatest verses ever. Walking us through his academic struggles early on in life, Smino illustrates the moment he decided to pursue music as a passion and career. His impressively complex and technical verse embodies the ironic juxtaposition between his academic failures and his masterful control over language.
1. “Shadow Man,” Noname featuring Saba, Smino, & Phoelix
Release Date: July 31, 2016
The overwhelming honesty, sincerity, and musicality of “Shadow Man” place the record within the contemporary hip-hop canon, and Smino turns in the song’s best verse. Alongside his current Ghetto Sage groupmates, his capacity for fitting ingenious bars and sobering contemplation within sonically-soothing structures allows Smino to dance upon the Cam O’bi instrumental with unrivaled grace. Blending his use of alliteration with his knack for musical delivery, Smino produces pure poetry.