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'Big Smo' review: Giving hick-hop a bad name

Hick-hop rapper Big Smo of the new A&E

Hick-hop rapper Big Smo of the new A&E reality show, "Big Smo." Credit: Zach Dilgard

THE SHOW "Big Smo"

WHEN|WHERE Premieres Wednesday night at 10:30 on A&E

WHAT IT'S ABOUT John Smith, aka Big Smo, is a country music star on the cusp of the Next Big Country Thing: Hip-hop/country fusion. On the eve of the release of his first major label (Warner) album, "Kuntry Livin'," this series follows his balancing act. With his growing fame and demands on his time, he's trying to keep it real with family (he has two daughters), his girlfriend and other members of his "posse." He's a so-called "hick-hop" artist, and "keeping it real" is never easy for pioneers. But he's big-hearted, good-natured and never far from the elements that sustain him -- his mom, his girl and the land.

MY SAY Last month, Smo was prominently featured in a prominent newspaper of the sort that you imagine a guy like Smo doesn't normally read. (That would be The New York Times.) But the upshot would nonetheless have pleased this good "yo" country boy: Hick-hop is hot.

Why? Lots of reasons, including the radically counterintuitive one that rap and country aren't all that different in some respects (really). It's still a marginal genre, of course, maybe always will be, but the door barring entry to the mainstream was certainly blown off its hinges last year when Blake Shelton's hick-hop hit, "Boys 'Round Here" was released. Total YouTube views: 24 million.

Smo has his own posse of fans, too, and what they like -- a lot -- are songs such as "Kick Mud."

But what's missing in Wednesday night's opener, already posted online by A&E, is precisely that -- music, except for snatches of a studio session and a few very rough bars that Smo belts out at a concert. As such, Smo is just another colorful character starring in his own Hallmark greeting card -- a "Duck Dynasty" without the ducks. The formula is now so wearily familiar that even Smo's close circle of family and friends has trouble faking it. At least this could get interesting when the album's released.

BOTTOM LINE This (almost) music-free opener makes you wonder what the fuss is about.


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