Love is complicated. So much goes into coming to terms with that intimate feeling, or even understanding what it is in the first place. Smino meticulously and tastefully pieces together the many facets of love in all its phases in his album “Luv 4 Rent.”

Hip-hop and R&B artist Smino put himself on the map in 2017 with his exceptional debut album “blkswn.” He quickly established himself as a distinct artist through his melodic sound, smooth flows and mellow production. A year later, he released his sophomore album “NOIR,” a record that had a few notable tracks but lacked overall cohesiveness and did not live up to the talent Smino displayed in “blkswn.”

Almost 4 years since “NOIR,” Smino released his third studio album on Oct. 28, and has returned with a dynamic and canorous album that transitions beautifully from front to back. “Luv 4 Rent” is an artfully conscious R&B album that showcases a variety of Smino’s skills, from his silky sound to clever wordplay. Featuring J. Cole, Lil Uzi Vert, Monte Booker, Lucky Daye, Doechii and other artists, the 15-track LP not only reasserts Smino’s highly-refined lyrical talent, but takes his sound to an entirely new level. Smino becomes vulnerable throughout this album by displaying his experiences with various aspects of love, from platonic relationships to romantic connections. Smino will be co-headlining his tour with Dreamville rapper JID in 2023. The “Luv is 4Ever” Tour will begin in Los Angeles at the end of January next year.

The album kicks off with a soft intro leading into “No Ls,” which picks up the pace and sets the tone for the album incredibly well by showing an internal conflict of vulnerability. Here, the theme of the album emerges as Smino grapples with being reserved and giving into his emotions. 

Courtesy of Zero Fatigue and Motown Records.

This track seamlessly transitions to “90 Proof,” featuring J. Cole. Despite his limited discography, Smino has been featured in many top artists’ music, such as SZA, Khalid and Doja Cat. J. Cole’s feature on “Luv 4 Rent” shows the mark Smino is leaving and the respect he has earned from established artists. The track is a catchy, and rather unconventional, love song in which Smino gains the courage to express his feelings for someone, with the help of alcohol and marijuana. The song opens with, “Take a break and roll the sticky, let’s get high / Not too great at relationships, at least I try.” Being intoxicated to build confidence and be able to speak openly is a common coping mechanism, and it is admirable for Smino to display it in this song for listeners to relate to. Furthermore, J. Cole lives up to expectations and spits his bar-filled verse about his feeling of self-assuredness and confidence. Smino’s distinctive vocals, combined with J. Cole’s lyrical mastery, creates an addictive track. 

The vivacity of the album started to dwindle after, “Pro Freak,” a fast paced, high-energy track about physical attraction and sexual intimacy. This song represents Smino’s lack of vulnerability and tackles the idea of lust over love. The middle of the album, including tracks that are still aesthetically enjoyable, like “Blu Billy” and “Modeinaminute,” feel repetitive and ordinary. Regardless, I think that they steadily and effectively set up the second half to the album’s ending. The record picks up the pace again with “Settle Down,” followed by my favorite song, “Pudgy.” The track includes a feature by none other than Lil Uzi Vert, whose appearance on the album and delivery of his verse itself is unexpected in the best way possible. 

The album concludes with “Lee and Lovie.” The song is a quintessential R&B/Soul love song, featuring Reggie. We finally see Smino in his most open and vulnerable state, where he shamelessly expresses his compassion. The rapper does an amazing job of piecing the tracks together to tell a story. While “No Ls,” depicts a reserved Smino who is unable to come to terms with himself and his emotions, it ends with him explicitly professing his love for a significant other, under no influence of any substance. Collectively, the album is extremely relatable, yet a unique piece of work that flows effortlessly.

While there are moments in the album that seem dragged out and don’t contribute much to the artistry or story of the project, the transitions and crafting of the album is what makes it so special. This project helps push the narrative for Smino as an up-and-coming staple in hip-hop and as an artist in general. “Luv 4 Rent” solidifies Smino’s sound and does his potential justice.

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