Review: Smino lets her mind take its course on “She’s Already Decided”

Smino makes its complex sound so simple. His signature St. Louis drawl, layered over unassuming beats, makes his songs beautifully complex, creating timeless classics from the ground up.

His latest mixtape, She has already decided is Smino at its loosest. His lyrics reflect the level of nonchalance he finds himself in – “removing the sticky grass” – without losing that poignant yet dispersed flow he uses so well.

For a mixtape – usually a freebie for people, full of unfinished tracks and unapproved samples – She has already decided is quite polished, with some of Smino’s smoothest and boldest vocals to date. Emulating collaborator T-Pain, he wields the double-edged sword of slow crooning and fast bars with incredible precision.

“Fronto Isley” kicks off the tape on a beautiful sunny day to a sample from the Isley Brothers. He sings from the start, setting an anthemic chorus, and ends the riff with raps detailing how he basks in the life he leads.

“Already” begins with gritty synth touches and a haunting dripping sound, reminiscent of “LOW DOWN DERRTY BLUES”, one of my favorites from his last full album, BLACK. What makes this track so strong is the combination of airy production and hard-hitting lyrics as it rolls the beat with its deep, pasty enunciation.

[Read more: Review: ‘Fetch The Bolt Cutters’ is uncut, unapologetic Fiona Apple]

If you’re familiar with Smino’s discography, you might notice that “Already” sounds like a Monte Booker-produced track, with random blips and the most bouncy drumming. Booker, his go-to producer for many years, helped him organize his debut album blkswn, as well as BLACK. But this time it’s producer VZN, who works closely with Booker, who steps in to steal the show – or provide an incredible backdrop for the Smi show.

As the track ends, Smino explains the meaning of the tape’s title, focusing on the idea that certain aspects of life are out of our control, and we have to come to terms with it.

“Mother Nature, she’s already decided what it’s gonna be / It’s not up to you anymore, it’s beyond me.”

“Good Ol Julio” crawls with shimmering synthesizers and tiptoe pizzicato strings. Smino jumps to the first drum break and shares his love-hate relationship with tequila Don Julio, “the feeling, the high, high, told that female dog to calm down.”

What stands out most to me about Smino is his compressing and lengthening of words and phrases, bending his flow with every turn of the beat so his bars cut off at the most unexpected moments.

Each new release finds him ready to attack a beat and often chooses to make it as groovy as he knows it. With all imaginable cadences and flows available to him on She has already decided — and with no fear of singing a verse in song — Smino once again tapped into his deep bank of creativity, which flows abundantly as the booze pours, the grass burns, and his mind spins.

Key Tracks: “Fronto Isley”, “Already”, “Good Ol Julio”, “O’HighO”, “Year of The Goat”

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