The firm presence of black culture at this year’s Academy Awards Sunday (Feb. 25) will be felt on the red carpet all the way to the small screens of Middle America. The power of such films as Fences and masterful filmmakers like Barry Jenkins has even influenced budding lyrical maven Smino to release “Blkoscars” (featuring Jay2), an ode to black excellence and witty retort to the ongoing #OscarsSoWhite debacle.
The St. Louis native tells VIBE inspiration for the Monte Booker-produced track came during 2016, the year everyone hates and the height of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. “I was in Chicago with my brother and Monte sent me this cool a** beat,” he said. “We were discussing the absence of people of color at the Oscars since #OscarsSoWhite was happening, so that’s where the concept came from. It just so happened that people of color have taken over the nominations this year, so it’s just good timing how it all came together.” For the first time in Academy history, a black actor is nominated in every single major acting catergory—Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. While Viola Davis is recognized as the most nominated black woman in Oscar history, other legends of color like Jackie Chan will be receiving the Honorary Academy Award (he’s only the fifth Asian to receive the award.)
Never one to mask his confidence, Smino is a nurturing and encouraging supporter of black culture. “The coldest s**t about being black is you’re kind of just ahead of the curve naturally,” he said.”Your access to cool s**t just comes out of the air. I feel like a black kid could sit in his room forever and not meet one person in his whole life and make some dope a** art based on what he can pull together from his head. It’s already through our ancestors, the music and different crazy styles.”
Smino showcases the wave on change on “Blkoscars” with his ability to drop melodic hooks and double-timed bars. The young-old cat says he was blown away by Oscar-nominated films Moonlight, Fences and Hidden Figures. “I saw all of them with my girl. Moonlight is good as f***,” he boasts. “Mahershala [Ali] did a great job in both films (Hidden Figures and Fences). Hidden Figures actually inspired the last song I put out (“Anita”) and Fences was so impressive, I didn’t get to see the play but I appreciated the film.”
Fences-director and star Denzel Washington is among the rapper’s Top 3 actors list, along with Jamie Foxx and Will Smith. “Foxx is so versatile and [then there’s] Denzel,” he said. “He made Training Day so he’s the top dog.” When it comes to learning any gems from Hollywood, Smino says he’s observed it from afar. “You self-consciously study the game and s**t when you’re a kid, but you’re watching entertainers grow their brand,” he said. “I’ve always paid attention to that.”
Smino has wrapped up visuals to “Anita” and says his blkswn project is entering the final stages of completion. For now, feel the groove of black power on “Blkoscars” below.