Every now and then an entertainer emerges who is both prolific and innovative within the realm of their art form, and this rings true for pioneering Brownsville, Brooklyn rapper, Damon Smith, known to the world of Hip-Hop as Smoothe Da Hustler.
As the moniker says it all, Smith has always been in an elite squadron of Brooklyn emcees, having come up with the Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z, and known for his sheer ability to maneuver through a maze of talentless rappers. His quick-witted wordplay, mathematical accounts of the hustle game, alongside his impeccable knack for conveying the depiction of street life in a way that even the most suburban of individuals would have a clear and concise understanding of what it is like to grow up on the other side of the track, is what has not only garnered Smith pioneering status, but has inveterate his fate in the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame.
Fresh off the block with his A-Side ‘Hustlin’,’-pressed up as an Independent record under the SMG imprint (Smith and his manager, Rafiq, were doing this long before creating independent record labels was even popular), Smith gained street and national credibility for this street anthem, but it was the platinum B-Side ‘Broken Language,’ that sealed the deal and proved that Smith was innovation at its best, as he showed the world that he has never fell into the trap of doing what other rappers were doing and thank God, because if he did, we would have never been introduced to a new language that was 'broken.' No hooks, just straight raw fluency that Smith and his younger brother, talented rapper, Trigger Tha Gambler, gave to rap when they released the 1995 Profile-bound, 'Broken Language.' ‘Broken Language’ allowed for Smith to become a household name in the Hip-Hop community.
Going off of those single successes, he went on to create the classic gold album “Once Upon A Time in America,” this proved undeniably that Smith was one of the best lyrical talents that had ever blessed the game of Hip-Hop, showing that Smith's wordplay could cut like a two-edged sword when it was laid down on wax. The successful streak did not stop there, as Smith went on to appear on and write for several soundtracks including ‘He Got Game,’ where he penned the track ‘Game Face’ rapping alongside Hip-Hop pioneers Public Enemy and the platinum ‘Nutty Professor’ soundtrack, teaming up yet again with his brother, Trigger Tha Gambler and fellow crew member DV Alias Khryst, to create the banger -“My Crew Can’t Go for That.”
Smith’s collaboration resume proves to be quite impressive, working alongside artists and influential industry insiders such as; Jay-Z, Puffy, Notorious B.I.G., Rakim, SWV, Big L, Ice-T, Onyx, Lil Mo, Foxy Brown, Big Pun, Run DMC, Russell Simmons, Lyor Cohen, M.O.P., Papoose, Director Extraordinaire -Chris Robinson, Joseph Kahn, Benny Boom, Boot Camp Click, Wu Tang Clan, DMX, Busta Ryhmes, The Lox, Kool G. Rap, KRS-1 and many more.
Whether it is other rappers such as Black Thought from the ‘Legendary Roots Crew’ saying that he listens to Smoothe Da Hustler before he does a show, a young Foxy Brown learning how to hone her skills as a rapper under the guidance and lyrical direction of Smith, west coast veteran rapper and actor, Ice-T taking notice of Smith as a talented east coast rapper - so much so that they were able to formulate a great working relationship together, or Redman and Method Man paying homage to Smith by remaking his timeless Hip-Hop classic, ‘Broken Language,’ it is evident that Smoothe Da Hustler has left an unparalleled mark on Hip-Hop that many never have had a chance to make and likely never will.
Many often query and speculate about what happened to Smith, a true urban underground legend, who was on the verge of taking the game to a new plateau; "a lot of things happened, there was a lot of label B.S., which really made it difficult to release another album, but on top of that, I lost my son's mom to an aneurysm, so I had to get sole custody of him, so just so many reasons why I didn’t come back out immediately, but I've always kept my ears to the streets and I'm flattered that I was able to even give these cats something to aspire to.
I’m glad they studied my style, so I appreciate the new emcees because they let me know that they’re thinking about me in their rhymes, but I'm back now and coming at it from all sorts of angles, not just from a lyrical side," Smith explained. Also adding; "It's funny to hear some of the younger cats that haven’t done their history on my first album “Once Upon a Time in America,” hear my new sh*t and say that I sound like someone else, when obviously they have to sound like me since I was in this first doing the whole punch line and wordplay rhyming before it was even really that popular. I've always lived what I rhyme, so that always will give me the advantage. I feel like my presence has been deeply missed, and I thank those die hard Smoothe Da Hustler/SMG fans, that have never let cats forget about me.”
Gaining respect both globally and universally-from his travels across the globe, not once but twice, the game is wide open for Smith - A game that he helped significantly change through his revolutionary style of rap. In 2008, he released “Violenttimes Day” under his own machine by marketing it independently, and ‘til this day it is receiving rave reviews. In 2011 he followed up with “Violenttimes Day 2.” Presently working on his autobiography - ‘The Name Says it All,’ creating a collaborative effort cartoon and has even joined the ranks of Corporate America as a licensed real estate agent, where he often jokes about how through his days of ‘hustling,’ he used to move people out of their residences, but now he’s moving them in - proving that if hustling is in your bloodline, you can turn even the most legitimate of things into a hustle.
Some have stated that Smith was way before his time with his lyrical formulas, street life recollections and breaking down the hustle game to the very last compound. Whether people admit it or not, Smith made the publicizing of “HUSTLIN’” famous and he did not just enter the Hip-Hop game to become just another rapper - he entered the game to make history.