The St. Louis star shines bright on his 3rd studio album
Over the last several years, Smino has seemingly exploded into the modern hip-hop and R&B scenes. The St. Louis natives’ 2017 debut album “blkswn” and its 2018 follow-up “NOIR,” while not the most popular releases of each year, earned him a dedicated fanbase.
Several appearances on 2019’s “Revenge of the Dreamers III” from J. Cole’s Dreamville label brought him even further into the limelight, but Smino kept a relatively low profile in the years following. The wait is over, and “Luv 4 Rent” proves that Smino wasted no time.
“No L’s” is a perfect introduction to the album, and features spaced out deliveries from Smino. The lyrics are scored excellently by a twinkling instrumental sample with heavy bass hits beneath it. The track is incredibly relaxed, and it’s hard to not match Smino’s energy while listening.
The same goes for “90 Proof,” which pairs a beautiful guitar lead with organic drums and light background vocals. Smino’s voice twists and turns with the melody, and he sings of finding a love better than anything he has had before. “I’m gettin’ used to bein’ loved, girl, the right way,” he sings.
A fantastic guest appearance from J. Cole opens up with a shoutout to his wife. “I got a real one, if I was broke, she never would leave me, no,” Cole says. The song sees Smino flourishing lyrically and vocally, and the aforementioned J. Cole appearance feels like an alley-oop to close out the track beautifully.
“Pro Freak” is hard to describe with words alone. Stellar vocals, incredibly layered and lush instrumentation, and top-notch energy create a vibe unlike anything else on the project. The track feels perfectly crafted for a barbecue or a downtown drive in the spring with the windows down. Wherever you play it, it’s endlessly infectious and replayable. Quick and punchy bass hits along with a subdued guitar lead keep heads bobbing consistently.
A wide array of backing vocals feel excellently matched with Smino’s relentlessly smooth delivery. A dizzying assist from Doechii keeps things energized. To top it off, a beat switch near the end hands the microphone back to Smino for one of his few rap verses on the project. The song is about as close to perfect as it gets, and will be on repeat for months to come.
The project’s pure joy continues on “Matinee.” This quick, cute, and flirtatious ballad brings yet another helping of Smino’s incredibly diverse vocal inflections. Lines such as “I don’t text her, let it fester, I don’t stress her, I just stretch her” and “If it’s cold, I Moncler her, make no error” perfectly emphasize the track’s playful nature. The simple but gorgeous instrumental puts a beautiful bow on the song.
“Settle Down” is another absolute standout and brings the energy up to 11. A fantastic guitar lead, bouncing drums and bass, and light background vocals feel like they’re ripped from the Earth itself. Smino continues to amaze vocally. Ravyn Lenae brings her signature feathery vocals into the mix, and her outro to the track stuns as well. Smino sings about doing his best and having no stress, and the song is likely to have the same effect on the listener.
“Pudgy” with Lil Uzi Vert is one of the most interesting songs on the album, with a unique saxophone-trap instrumental. This fantastic beat feels perfectly crafted for Smino, but Lil Uzi Vert somehow feels right at home on an instrumental that very few fans would expect to hear him on.
“Curtains” is one of the most emotionally poignant moments on the album. Smino utilizes a more simple instrumental to allow his voice to take center stage. The song bounces between multiple themes and ideas, including friends, wealth, love, and family. “I bought the big ol’ body with the pretty wheels, riding with the ones from when it was ugly,” Smino sings.
The album ends with “Lee & Lovie,” and Smino certainly could not have chosen a more perfect outro. The song is a testament to love in every sense, with Smino highlighting both romance and the importance of self-love. A twinkling and stunning instrumental provides the perfect backdrop for such beautiful speech, and the album ends just as fantastic as it began.
In an interview with Complex regarding “Luv 4 Rent,” Smino stated that “Self-love is definitely a big theme on this album, and I also think another way to interpret it is I was leading other people to self-love, too.”
His statement rings true throughout the entire project, as it’s nearly impossible to listen without feeling overcome with some sort of love or happiness. “Luv 4 Rent” feels like Smino truly coming into his own as an artist, and the project brings with it some of the best R&B/Hip-hop songs of the year.
Smino – Luv 4 Rent: 8.5/10