Concert Reviews Music

Concert Review: JID X Smino at MTELUS

JID and Smino both showcased why they’re on the map

It was in the packed MTELUS venue that hip hop enthusiasts gathered to witness two of the most promising figures of the “alternative rap” scene: JID and Smino. Both had released acclaimed albums in 2022 and it was only right for them to collaborate on a North American tour.

Before hitting the stage, they sent another hot name coming from that scene to warm up the crowd: St. Louis rapper Jordan Ward. He only played for 20 minutes, but he didn’t waste a single second and made the most out of it while hyping the crowd, singing and dancing. He definitely left a mark on Montrealers and brought an energy that matched JID’s and Smino’s.

Smino was next up, and surprisingly played with a band instead of a DJ, which isn’t something you see often at rap concerts. Smino gave a great performance, but unfortunately for him, had some things going against him. 

First, the sound was pretty bad, not only for Smino, but throughout the entire concert. The bass and drums were so loud that it was difficult to distinguish the different instrumentals and melodies. All you could hear was Smino rapping over loud bass and the drummer.

Second, even though it was a joint tour between Smino and JID, people were clearly there for the latter. Because of that, a lot of them weren’t familiar with the lyrics to Smino’s songs and weren’t as invested in his performance compared to JID’s set. Even though Smino brought the energy and was singing and rapping well, the crowd wasn’t reciprocating what he was showing them. I’ve been following Smino closely since 2018 and I even had problems recognizing the songs. 

He still delivered an hour-long set where he alternated between some of his most popular songs, with tracks from his latest record Luv 4 Rent.

Now time for JID. He was undoubtedly the star of the show. The singing was great, but the rapping was even better. He started off with the song that put him on the map: “NEVER,” and people were immediately hooked.. He then followed with a long run of songs from his 2022 album The Forever Story

JID was incredibly impressive to watch. During shows, most rappers need backtracks to perform and rap over them, but not JID. He was rapping almost every single word and rarely taking breaks. He is well known for having some of the most intricate and unique flows in the rap game, and to see him execute them to perfection during his performance was phenomenal. Songs like “Off Deez,” “151 Rum,” and “Raydar” really showcased JID’s rapping talent. 

He finished his set with fan favourites from his other records, and ended with the high-energy “Stick,” resulting in the crowd forming a massive mosh pit. While his set lasted an hour, I could have easily stayed for an hour more. He was that good.

Overall, despite some issues, JID and Smino still came together and more than satisfied the rap fans who were present. It was a fun night overall.


Mick Jenkins spits truth for a cold crowd in his sister city

Mick Jenkins had L’Astral’s crowd chant the motto that epitomized his come-up. “Drink more…” “Water!!” It is the central theme of The Water[s], the 2014 mixtape that put rap fans on notice regarding Jenkins.

The project was acclaimed for its thick, sub-marine production and Jenkins’s thoughtful, pithy lyrics. Held together by the concept of water as a metaphor for truth, it explained that both were equally necessary. The “drink more water” line that punctuated The Water[s] urged listeners to learn more and to seek more truth. Jenkins’s confident, astute delivery made for a gripping listen, promoting water while many other rappers pushed lean. “I pray it’s never too preachy but I’m preaching,” admitted Jenkins on “Martyrs.” The mixtape remains his most popular body of work.

Jenkins rose with what is now recognized as a new-school wave of Chicago rap. His friends and collaborators include Chance the Rapper, Noname, Saba, Smino and Joey Purp. The Water[s] was significant for Montreal as well. At the time, Jenkins’s manager lived in the city, and Jenkins would make trips every few months. “I think it’s very similar to Chicago, at least on the creative spectrum,” he said in his 2015 Montreality interview. He collaborated with Montreal hip-hop veterans Da-P and High Klassified on the title track of the mixtape. Jenkins also made an anthem for the city, “514,” that became iconic for his Quebecois fans, rapping “I’ve been in the 514, my French getting too clean / Customs is routine, eating hella poutine, I think I’ma buy one more.” Since then, he has released albums and mixtapes that stay true to his standard of quality and pensive, quotable style, but failed to capture the cohesive nature of The Water[s] that had internet rap fans in a frenzy five years ago. It seems then like there are two factions of Jenkins fans, those that discovered the The Water[s] and maintain it as his pinnacle, and fans that may have missed the wave but know him as an excellent MC for his newer work.

Standing at a solid six foot five, Mick towered over the crowd while hitting the gas on the mic and never easing off. Photo by Simon New

It was clear that both groups made it out to L’Astral last Monday the 28th, surely more of the latter than the former. When Jenkins came out after opening California R&B rapper Kari Faux, he was visibly frustrated in the face of the crowd’s applause; after having technical issues and fixing them with his DJ, he tore into some of his new material. Standing at a solid six foot five, he towered over the crowd while hitting the gas on the mic and never easing off. Hearing his aggressive, labyrinthine flows thoroughly backed by his full, deep voice was truly impressive. Watching his new Kaytranada-produced single, “What Am I To Do,” felt like watching his COLORS episode unfold in front of you. All of this was over live drums and bass. Jenkins was accompanied by his DJ, a drummer, a bassist and frequent collaborator theMIND, for vocals and a feature song. The result sounded like butter, but it’s hard to rap in a vat of butter, and Jenkins often drowned in the instrumentals. In a rap show that focuses on a vibe or on the crowd yelling the words, that wouldn’t be an issue, but Jenkins can be hard to keep up with on record. His potent lyrics were stunted by the venue’s sound. This caused a disconnect between Jenkins and the crowd. He kept his movement to a simmer for most of the demanding set, putting energy into his voice over his body. His mid-tempo instrumentals don’t quite lend to dancing either. Fans who know his material were awestruck, while less hardcore fans were low-key about lyrics that weren’t quite clear. The divide in the fandom was never more apparent than when “514” dropped. The anthem by a Chicago rapper for a city that rarely gets mentioned in hip hop got a lukewarm enough reaction that Jenkins stopped in the middle of it to hype the crowd up. “Are you sure y’all know this?” he said, and motioned to cut the song to his DJ. He started it again and diehards rapped along, but couldn’t overpower the Monday-night energy that took over the casual listeners in the audience. It was gutting to watch the crowd go limp on the climax of the set: a song about their city. Near the end of the set, chants for “one more song” turned into “514.”

Mick found diehard fans in a spaced crowd. Photo by Simon New

Mick tried to level with the crowd. He demanded silence and got a drunk yell from the back. He got ahold of the audience and closed with “Social Network,” which finally put the crowd in the kind of frenzy that had me scared for my camera.

It seems evident that a blasé crowd can keep a good show from being great. Indeed, the few hardcore fans that dotted the room bounced and yelled the words to “514” and were still unsuccessful at getting the room moving. But Jenkins was ultimately unable to crack the subdued atmosphere that started with his earlier tech frustrations. He chose his lyrical integrity over getting wild and animated, like we expect of rappers. While we can’t know if Jenkins upping his energy could have won the crowd back earlier in the set, there was a certain pretension and expectation of reverence for his lyrics that, while justifiable, wasn’t elevating the mood. Bad crowds are plentiful, and it was hard to deal with one as divided as L’Astral’s, but in the face of divided attention, Mick powered through for a show that impressed but didn’t connect with the room. From a musical perspective, Jenkins put on a rock-solid set with a truly impressive performance, but the preaching tone held back what could have been a party in the 514.

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Smino – Noir

Smino’s sophomore album, Noir, can be described as musical soul food. The newest project from the St. Louis native is filled with the sing-songy flow that he mastered on his debut project, blkswn. Smino’s voice transitions eloquently from Future-esque falsettos on “KLINK,” to his hard hitting flow on “KRUSHED ICE.” The production is handled mainly by Monte Booker, Sango and Smino himself. The beats mix funk, soul and trap together to create a sound that stands out at the end of a year crowded with new releases. “TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD” also sees Smino experimenting with Spanish-influenced sounds that could make for a fantastic single. While a bit long, Noir is certainly worth listening to in its entirety. It’s an album crafted with care and originality and should not be overlooked.

Rating: 8/10


Star Bar: “Who dat boy? He from the Lou’, he is a animal / Keep me some ice in my hands / Yeah, I got a burr wrist, think I’m Hannibal” – Smino on “VERIZON”

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