Trying to classify Corbin Smidzik aka Spooky Black (and early on “Lil Spook”) into a genre for this piece left me trying to find a way to fit it into genres and micro-genres new and old. I’m told it’s R&B but it’s unlike any R&B I am familiar with. Part John Legend, part FKA Twigs, but could just as easily be a digital lo-fi Bon Iver.
Whatever it is, Spooky Black/Corbin has been haunting me for a while now.
At 18 years old he’s already put out a few EPs and captivated pockets of the internet and music press with his wavering voice, sincere innocence and awkward-as-fuck image. His first breakthrough was “Without You” – he was 15 at the time and the video was shared fairly widely around the internet, in part for his talent but also in part for his look. A white kid in a skivvy, gold chain and LL Cool J-style du-rag, draped over a couch that looks like it’s come from a 90s porn set.
The video has been made private from his youtube page and while it can still be found online a few places, I’m not going to share it here because if someone wants a video of themselves they made when they were 15 to be private then I figure that should be honoured. The song, however, is still up on his Soundcloud page:
Since then he’s put out music and with collaborators Bobby Raps, Allen Kingdom, and Psymun formed The Stand4rd (the most well known member is Kingdom who featured on Kanye West single All Day), as well as putting out his own EPs. Most recently, in June 2015, he released a 7 track EP with Bobby Raps titled Couch Potato.
The video for the first track is no less low budget than his previous vids and, to be honest, a little bit gross; as Bobby Raps dribbles onto his naked chest and raps into a night vision camera. I’ll just link the song instead.
Bobby Raps has tight rhymes and solid flow but when Corbin comes in, I can’t help but stop what I’m doing to listen. And look at that pic – these dudes put out one of the most fire tunes of 2015 looking like that? Things done changed.
While I’m unsure how I feel about chronicling (even as lightly as I have here) a career of a musician who is still only 18, I feel like artists such as Corbin are almost a personification of an emerging era of music where it’s not the myspace and youtube generation of artists mimicking and producing existing genres, but rather new genres being created right in front of us and we get to watch them from a distance as they shakily find legs of legitimacy like new-born foals. And in Corbin legitimacy is being found sans-hype, excess and all the other extremities of modern pop music. And even so young, there is a maturity in how he approaches the songs. It doesn’t feel over-sung or over-wrought. The music is always given its own space to breathe and that helps highlight his incredible voice.
One thing can be sure, Spooky Black/Corbin is a real talent and someone who could take his voice to any audience he chooses and let’s be honest here, you probably looked as awkward as this when you were 16; but no matter how long you live, chances are you’ll never be able to sing as well as this: