Born John Smith on February 14, 1976 in San Diego, California, country rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, and film director Big Smo grew up in Tennessee, and he's been known by a lot of names thanks to his various business, music, and film enterprises, including Hick Ross, Andrew "Mitchell Dick" Keller, and Boss of the Sticks. As a musician, he combines country themes and attitudes with rap and hip-hop in a style that prompted one reviewer to note "If Kid Rock and Run-D.M.C. had a love child, he would be named Big Smo," although combining Hank Williams, Jr. with Nappy Roots might strike a bit closer.
Smith was in the marching band in high school, and had already learned to play several instruments, including the drums and trumpet, when he graduated. He also wrote poetry, and when he met Ray Riddle, who was just starting out as a DJ (he eventually evolved into Orig the DJ), the two set out to combine Smith's poetry with samples on Riddle's Technics turntable. A lasting creative partnership was born, and the pair went on to learn the music business from the ground up, releasing several independent singles, albums, and films. A homemade video of one of Smith's "hick-hop" songs, "Kickin' It in Tennessee," garnered over five million views on YouTube, attracting the interest of Warner Music Nashville, which signed Smith (as Big Smo) to a major-label record deal and released his first nationally distributed EP, Grass Roots, in 2012. He followed this with the Backwoods Whiskey EP in 2013.
His debut album, Kuntry Livin', arrived in 2014, its release scheduled to tie in with the airing of Big Smo, a U.S. reality TV series that offered an insight into his day-to-day life. Kuntry Livin' climbed into the Top 40 of Billboard's albums chart, and was followed in 2015 by the EP Bringin' It Home, and in 2016 by his politically charged sophomore long-player, We the People. Early 2018 saw the release of the single "Country Outlaw," followed by the full-length Special Reserve in late February. ~ Steve Leggett