As The Pageant filled up for its latest sold out show Sunday night, the vibe was different – and special – from some of the other highly anticipated shows that recently had the venue at capacity. Yes, there were lines on both sides like Lizzo. Fans mouthed along to every word, just as when Janelle Monae’s “Dirty Computer” paid the city a visit. But Smino’s Kribmas4 concert took the energy that comes with a buzzed about show and raised it to infinity. Why? Because he’s the homie. When they screamed and called his name from the other side of the stage like they knew him, it’s because many of them probably did.

After brief but well received performances by openers Schenay Mosley and Jay2, Smino kicked off his headlining portion of Kribmas show by scooting on stage in a sleigh modeled after a pair of Nike Air Force Ones. It was the first tribute to Nelly and the city that shaped Smino’s sound, but by no means the last.

 “I’m from this city right here – the West Side to be exact.” Smino said early on during the hometown show he’s presented for the past four years during the holiday season.

His career as a rapper/singer kicked off while he was attending college in Chicago and connected him to rising stars Noname and Rayven Lanae and certified rap star J. Cole. As his own star continues to rise, he seems intentional about making it clear that he’s “from the Lou and proud” as one of Smino’s rap idols, Nelly proclaimed while putting St. Louis hip-hop on a global scale.

Smino appears to be on a similar path. When he stood before St. Louis audiences Sunday, he was two weeks out from being nominated for a Grammy as part of collective of artists who appeared on Revenge of the Dreamers 3, a product of J. Cole’s Dreamville Records. The album is in the running for “Best Rap Album.”

“If I win, I’m bringing it right back here,” Smino told the crowd as he dove into a concert curated for day one Smino fans that stretched from his mixtapes to his critically acclaimed debut studio album “blkswn” to his follow up NOIR last year.

Backed by a live band, Smino gave fans a show that would have the most casual fan proclaiming him as the now and the next of the genre – in St. Louis and beyond.

The title and the date of the show reflected the holiday season, as did the set – Christmas trees on each side of the stage and the so St. Louis sled. The music itself didn’t reference the holidays, but the experience reflected what they represent – people coming together to celebrate and create memories.

Through songs like “Anita,” “blkswan” and others, Smino created a vibe that has become an annual tradition for young local hip-hop heads. As he has with every show he’s done in the region – and claims to do everywhere else – Smino took a moment to pay tribute to the St. Louis music footsteps he follows with medley of hits from Nelly and The St. Lunatics. This year fans were given a special treat. As “Air Force Ones” played, the crowd erupted. Nelly emerged on stage to sing along with Smino and the crowd. Smino stepped aside and watched as a fan while Nelly performed “E.I.” They then gave St. Louis a sneak preview of a new song they created together. They didn’t seem to announce the name of the track – or it could have been muffled by the rousing applause with the delightful shock of Nelly sharing the stage with Smino – but the hook was “on my mama’s mama.”

“We just recorded this song like two days ago y’all,” Smino said with joy and excitement as he prepared to give the audience a taste of the track.

Nelly left the stage and Smino gave the audience another 40 minutes of music before he closed out Kribmas 4. He returned to help Smino and the rest of the Kribmas crew toss out free t-shirts and other merchandise. Smino took off the blues jersey he wore for the second half of the show and flung it out into the crowd.

He then removed custom Air Force Ones that paid tribute to his city from his feet. He signed one and gave it to a young lady in the front of the crowd. He signed the second show and threw it up to fans in the balcony.

As the lights came up, Smino was in his socks greeting fans who stood front and center for the entire show. He waved goodbye still full from the energy of the night that gave him insight on how much they have his back. Kribmas may not have sounded like Christmas show, but based on all the love – from St. Louis and for St. Louis – it sure felt like one.

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