Pygmalion Review: CJ Run and Smino


Cj Run performing at Canopy Club

The Pygmalion Festival hosted St. Louis stand-out Smino at the Canopy Club in Urbana Last Thursday night.

A sizeable crowd gathered to first hear Illinois student and rapper CJ Run heat up the stage. Joined by a live band consisting of a saxophone, bass, drums, keys, and a backup vocalist, CJ energized the crowd with fast paced rhythms accompanied by melodies from their band. CJ had huge amounts of crowd participation from old and new fans alike throughout their half hour set. CJ’s heading in a great direction both technically and lyrically, and it’s exciting to consider the potential that they bring to the table.


With the crowd considerably warmed up, Smino made his Pygmalion Festival debut flowing over the title track from his most recent album, Blk Swan. He smoothly took command of the stage, and gracefully produced pure vocals, blending seamlessly with the backing instrumentals. Spreading a euphoric blanket over the Canopy Club, Smino had hundreds of backup singers as nearly all of his lyrics were assisted by the crowd. Smino performed a range of tracks, covering his newest release with hits like Anita and Blkoscers, but also paying homage to older tracks like Kolors and Blk Jupter. Midway through his set, Smino made sure to give credit to his friends as well, explaining that he was taking leave from his tour with SZA to perform for The Pygmalion Festival. He also introduced his Grammy award winning mix engineer to the crowd, Elton Chueng. Chueng was live mixing Smino’s performance, helping his vocals to fuse into the Monte Booker and Sango instrumentals. With such a wide vocal range and top notch production, Smino really made a statement that he is an artist deserving of national attention. On top of his layered, smooth tracks, he was a great performer, controlling the crowd and making sure that everyone was having a great night. There’s no telling how high Smino will fly, but I’m sure that all of the Pygmalion fans who saw him Thursday night would agree that he won’t be slowing down any time soon.

Written by Charlie Nudelman

Photography by Jennifer Clifton

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