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Nate Smith flips an awkward youth into a skyward path on 'Kinfolk 2: See the Birds'

Dave Stapleton
Edition Records

Nate Smith was many things before he became a notable jazz drummer and composer. Remembering his high school self in Chesapeake, Va., he describes "that awkward kid in the lunchroom, with a manuscript and drumsticks in hand" — a scenario recreated by Kokayi on "Square Wheel," the first single from Kinfolk 2: See the Birds.

On this edition of The Checkout, Smith returns to talk about that musical memoir, one of the more heralded releases of 2021. He reminisces about being an eager young Black American musician falling under the spell of rock and metal, via bands like Living Colour and Fishbone. At the time, h e could never have imagined being in the same recording studio with Living Colour's Vernon Reid, a guitar hero featured on the Kinfolk track "Rambo: The Vigilante."

Rambo: The Vigilante feat. Vernon Reid

Smith tells the hilarious story of introducing those heavy and wild sounds to his parents, who leaned toward the smoother grooves of George Benson. He also guides us through some of his other compositions, like the menacing tale of "Street Lamp," which weaves into his unique autobiographical tapestry.

For more on Smith, don't miss his conversation with Keanna Faircloth on The Pulse.

Nate Smith + Kinfolk begin their fall tour next week, appearing at (Le) Poisson Rouge in New York on Nov. 7; World Cafe Live in Philadelphia on Nov. 10; and City Winery DC on Nov. 11. Visit his websitefor details.

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For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.