St. Louis rapper/singer Smino combines hip-hop with funk and soul influences, much like contemporaries Isaiah Rashad, Saba, and Ab-Soul. Born Christopher Smith, Jr., he was raised by a family of musicians that provided early exposure to jazz, blues, and gospel music, which he would go on to blend with his own influences Kanye West and Dungeon Family. A drummer since childhood, Smino played in his church band before he started rapping. His first foray into hip-hop was as one-part of the St. Louis duo YDOC (“Young Dumb and Outta Control”). Later, he released a solo mixtape, SMEEZY DOT COM. After graduating high school, he moved to Chicago to attend Columbia College. There, his cousin, singer Drea Smith, introduced him to other artists in the local scene. In 2015, he formed the music collective Zero Fatigue with producer Monte Booker, rapper Jay2AintShit, and singer Ravyn Lenae. He released his first official EP, the sexually charged S!Ck S!Ck S!Ck, that October, quickly following with the Blkjuptr EP, an Andre 3000-esque meditation on cultural alienation. By year’s end, he’d released the title track to his debut LP, “Blkswn,” and subsequent 2017 singles “Anita” and “BlkOscars.”
CJ Run is a singer, rapper and songwriter hailing from the United Kingdom. They are currently a junior at the University of Illinois. At the age of 13 they began making music – drawing inspiration from grime, British hip-hop, RnB and electronic music. Since coming to Champaign-Urbana, they have released two full projects with a third on its way. Listen To The Kids and ForgetMeNot have both become sounds of campus life as CJ has been able to perform at many rallies and celebrations alike on the quad as well as venues throughout the city. Last fall, they were asked to perform as part of the Pygmalion Music Festival and have returned frequently through their showcase performance series’, with more to come this upcoming school year on and off campus. All of CJ Run‘s music can be found on Soundcloud, Spotify and iTunes.