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Single Review: Smilez – “Coffee Queen”

Hip-hop’s international stage is bigger than ever and still growing, and if you look at the success and buzz surrounding players Texas’ own Smilez, it’s easy to see what all of the fuss is about. Smilez’s style of rapping blends the melodic with the charismatically aggressive, and in his new single “Coffee Queen,” he attempts to demonstrate why balancing between two aesthetics is so critical to the development of a new era in hip-hop. There’s scarcely a moment in which his linguistic strengths aren’t the main focus here, and whether you feel the punk rock vibes or not, his tuneful harmonies and sharply-delivered lyrics have a way of having the same meaningful impact on anyone who happens to be within earshot of these beats.

This groove is downright smooth, and it’s not manufactured with a predictable bassline that drags the drums behind it. I get the impression that Smilez is the kind of player who wants to sideline conventionality when possible for the sake of facilitating a functional hook that mixes elements of rock, pop, and a touch of old-school hip-hop into the same cocktail of swagger, and here, he’s showing us everything he’s got as an experimentalist. I would have liked a little less percussive focus towards the chorus, but I suppose in the grander scheme of things this is a very forgivable transgression on his part. The beat is still solid, not to mention inviting us closer and closer with each passing verse.

These lyrics aren’t an afterthought next to the rhythm of the drums at all, but instead, do something to craft the emotional core of the music in a way that the other instrumental components in the mix simply can’t. Smilez isn’t a rapper who just wants to flex and flash stacks of cash in our faces when he’s constructing a poetic centerpiece to his music, and if there was any doubt about his depth in this department, I think it’s going to collectively dissipate with the release of “Coffee Queen” this summer. This is someone who takes the conceptualism of his composing as seriously as he does any element of his performing, and although this might be the standard in his scene at the moment, it isn’t the case for the mainstream at all.

To me, “Coffee Queen” is the most instrumentally-heavy piece to come out of this player’s underground circuit all year long, and if it’s indicating to us what Smilez is going to be dishing out from the studio throughout 2023, he’s going to find himself scoring more and more accolades outside of the Dallas underground. The demand for this kind of crossover is getting intense, especially stateside, and although his scene is blowing up with interest from across the globe, I have a feeling that American audiences are going to be especially inclined to like what they’re going to hear in “Coffee Queen” this August. Smilez is an impressive deliverer, and he’s letting us have the full scope of his skills in this performance.

Penelope Goss


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