Smino and Monte Booker should be tired, but they’re not. They’ve not long stepped off a 8 hour flight from Chicago to London, and headed straight to Central London. The pair are fuelled by charisma, they’re relaxed, confident and emit this positive energy that is synonymous with their beat-driven music. Collectively Smino and Monte Booker are part of ‘Zero Fatigue‘, a collective that’s more than just a bunch of music makers…
Individually, Smino and Monte Booker have carved careers for themselves as rappers and producers. Monte Booker is also part of the LA-based Soulection collective, and his debut ‘White Label’ Series, recently topped a million Soundcloud plays. Smino, is a rapper with a style so distinctive that after one listen, you can instantly recognise his vocal inflections and melodic harmonies. Originally from St Louis, Smino now resides in Chicago, “still not far from my Momma” he laughs. It was in Chicago’s famed Classick Studio’s that Smino and Monte Booker first met, Monte Booker recalls: “we was in the studio and I was making a beat, and one of my homies asked if he could hop on the beat and we just started paying each other music… That was two years ago“. Since then Monte Booker has almost exclusively produced everything Smino releases.
As musically partnerships go, Smino and Monte Booker have the balance right. With Smino’s distinctive rap inflections, and Monte Booker’s production there’s so much soul and smooth synth grooves, it’s shocking he’s only 21. Monte Booker gives credit to the likes of Timberland, The Neptunes, but also notes that Atlanta’s Organised Noize are also listed as one of his inspirations: “It’s weird because but you didn’t really know who Organised Noise was as their name wasn’t really out there. But only since the Netflix documentary did we really realise how much they did”.
The pair first caught my attention about six months ago, when Smino released his ‘Sick! Sick! Sick!’ EP, it was an amalgamation of three tracks that was diverse, and were so sonically pleasing you just wanted more. Smino’s follow up and latest project, to date, is ‘blk juptr’ – a slightly longer at five tracks in length. Smino describes the galactic title as how he often feels as a black man growing up in America, sometimes it can feel like your on Jupiter, “There’s a bunch of limitations that appear to be there, but they are not. Sometimes they could make people helpless, but we’re not going to let that stop us“. Smino recalls a time, not too long ago when the pair tried to rent a property: “But they [rental company] like oh we’re not comfortable with how you make money.. I mean we make money, we just didn’t work regular jobs… I got a group of white homeboys, they make the same money we do and they got a crib instantly, in a better neighbourhood than where we wanted to stay”.
In America at the moment, racial tensions are rife, last year there was riots across several states and cities in America in direct response to police shooting unarmed black males. “It’s just a bunch of old mentalities still embedded in some people. Our police do a bunch of brutal shit to people”, Smino tells me of the time when a black female friend of his, out of nowhere, was body slammed by three white policeman, “It’s just a bunch of shit, it’s real separated like all this is just more separation. So it’s getting worse in a sense, but it’s getting better as we’re aware of it as a people…Thats a small, small piece of whats going on“.
Collectively, Smino, Monte Booker, alongside Jay2AintShit and singer Ravyn Lenae are Zero Fatigue. And they’re not just a group of people making dope music together. It’s a lifestyle, it’s a life motto or mantra of sorts that is nothing short of inspiring. In his confident and charismatic way, Smino with a bundle of energy explains, “Zero Fatigue is the reason I can get off the plane and come and talk to you, it’s definitely life motto we go by. It’s about how you never get tired when you’re doing something you love. When you’re relentlessly working, you’re not watching the clock“.
The ever charismatic Smino has this very witty way about him, which transcends through into his music (his song ‘Raw’ is lined with these condom puns: “I used my last raincoat/She say it’s pouring”). Smino illustrates the Zero Fatigue mantra further by applying it to me: “You like your job right? You would wake up at 4am if you was hit up about doing a Drake interview, you wouldn’t be tired“. Damn right I would’t be tired. Instantly, I got it. Zero Fatigue is that universal yearning of wanting something so bad you’ll endure sleepless nights and exhaustion to get it. What do you live by Monte? Gazing around, taking in his surroundings, self-assured Monte replies: “Positive energy… And doing right by people. Treat people how you want to be treated… I always get positive energy from my tracks, sometimes I won’t be in a good mood, but the process of making music, makes me positive… And I have a good time. Specially working with Smi, we have jokes and flame each other”.
So what’s next for Monte Booker, Smino and Zero Fatigue? “We got a Zero Fatigue mixtape on the way, it’s exec produced and almost entire produced by Monte Booker“. Individually, there’s more music too Monte also has an EP, which Smino jokingly remarks, “Even I ain’t heard it, he’s keeping it a secret from me.. Aye – hopefully there’s a slot I can slide on there“. With summer shows across the states and even a far a field as New Zealand, it’s safe to say there’s no sign of any fatigue from Monte and Smino anytime soon.
The latest track to be added to the Smino X Monte Booker catalogue is ‘Menu’ (read ‘me-n-u’). It’s got Smino getting a lil romantic on this one, as well as eclectic bouncy production from Monte Booker.