“It takes one heck of a crew to start a crusade.”
That’s not a quote from the Roman Catholic Church but one from up-and-coming hick-hop artist Big Smo in this, his television debut. They are perhaps the most poignant non-lyrical words to ever slip from his mouth, but Big Smo is nothing if not a wordsmith.
Big Smo defines hick-hop as “country music, with a twist of Southern rock and roll” and “delivered in rap form.” There’s a promise from the rapper that as soon as anyone hears it, they’re going to love it, a bold statement if ever there was one. Middle school jokes about country and rap adding up to make “crap” aren’t needed here. How can lyrics about hard work and the struggles of getting up early to go to your job—like the majority of adults and even just kids in school—not speak to everyone?
While it’s debatable that hearing hick-hop will instantly make you love it, Big Smo never even really questions whether or not people will like his music. He has his fans and his “kinfolk,” and there’s really no room for anything in between. As Bubba Sparxxx and that “Accidental Racist” song have proven, there is certainly an audience for the genre. Big Smo himself sees it every day—he can barely go to Wal-Mart without someone recognizing him.
Honestly, the biggest (no pun intended) surprise about Big Smo is that he unfortunately isn’t a Kroll Show character.
It’s very easy to forget, but at one point, A&E was once known as something of a commercial counterpart to PBS. Eventually, much like TLC, branding became the more important aspect, and along came the reality shows like Storage Wars and Duck Dynasty. Sure, the network has branched out with scripted programs in the past few years, but the bread and butter is their reality shows. A&E is merely living up to its slogan: “Be Original.”
Big Smo attempts to live up to that slogan by being all about the American dream (in a niche form of the dream), but misses the mark by forgetting the first rule of being original: Also try to be entertaining.
Instead of being all about life on the road and the struggle of being a big fish in a pretty small pond, in between the blinged out, slow motion transitions, the show choose to be about Big Smo’s relationship with his “kinfolk,” a term he uses for his family and friends whenever possible. In fact, Mama (that’s Big Smo’s mother) is his money manager and closest advisor, keeping Smo’s money safe while also giving him those life lessons he’ll most likely need every week. He’s got his fiancée Whitney, who has no problem constantly talking about how hot her man is, and his two well-adjusted (for now) daughters. With all these ladies in his life, Big Smo really just a big teddy bear.
That right there, that connection to his family, is the heart of the show, but all heart doesn’t necessarily mean engaging. It just possibly means enlarged heart—an enlarged heart that prevents any true conflict from occurring.
Manufactured drama is the reality show way, but when it comes to the kinfolk, the drama isn’t anything other than who’s going to be the opener for Big Smo’s next show. Will it be Haden, the singer / guitarist who makes Gulliver’s Travels and Liza Minnelli reference? Or will it be Alex, the singer / hype man who legitimately sounds like he belongs in a cover band of a 3 Doors Down cover band. They have hot sauce eating competitions and sing offs by the bonfire to fight it out, but despite all the talk of struggle, Big Smo eventually picks them both to open. And as for the inner turmoil of Big Smo having to leave his family again for his next show, that’s also squashed when he just decides to bring them along.
At the end of the episode, Big Smo imparts some wisdom he gained from his father. “Son, you gotta go big or go home.” It’s short but simple. “And I’m doing both,” Smo says. Is doing both even allowed? It’s not go big and/or go home—a choice is expected to be made. Keeping in mind the non-existent conflicts in this episode, there’s a very “have your cake and eat it too” mentality in this show that only makes reality shows boring. This past season of Total Divas did that every single episode, and in this case, comparing Big Smo to Total Divas isn’t a compliment. That’s the antithesis of originality.
Watching Big Smo isn’t a chore, but besides a few solid soundbites, nothing happens. Controversy creates cash, as the recent Duck Dynasty scandal reminded us, but the most controversial part of Big Smo is maybe—maybe—the breakfast cereal milkshakes with bacon garnishes. I don’t watch any of the network’s reality shows, but I was under the impression that boring was not their default setting.
So if Big Smo isn’t going to go big, he really needs to go home.
- “Smo-mance.” May this show take every single opportunity to insert “Smo” into random words. It’s much better than the commercial for the show that use “Big” about a hundred times.
- Watching the music video for Big Smo’s “Workin’”—which I’ve done more than once—I couldn’t help but be struck by a couple of things. First of all, the music video is surprisingly well-made. It’s not the low budget spectacle I had expected and even hoped for. In fact, quite a bit of money must have gone into this video. Second of all, I had no idea Big Smo was a fan of surrealism.
- “Boy don’t you know? You country!” Hopefully that quote is in every single episode.