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A screenshot from the Smino album Luv 4 Rent shows men getting ready in a mirror
Image via Google Images

After years of silence, the St. Louis rapper is back.

Smino, an up-and-coming rapper with possibly the most unique voice in hip-hop, released his third studio album, “Luv 4 Rent,” on Oct. 28. He bends words into rhyme in unconventional ways, opening up a new world of wordplay and setting the stage for lyricism as witty as it is smooth.
And the 15 songs all sound great too. You can play “Luv 4 Rent” in the background while hanging out with friends, studying, cooking or even cleaning. His vocals, when paired with the great beats, are good enough to please almost any audience.

“Luv 4 Rent” is a fitting title for this project. On multiple different occasions, Smino talks about relationships and his problems with loving others. He also explores the topic of self-love and how important it has been for him.

After a spoken word intro, the second track, “No L’s,” wastes no time showcasing what makes Smino so special. Kal Banx produces a great beat, and Smino litters the song with great line after great line.

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Smino’s genius truly comes to light in “No L’s” when the beat changes just before the last verse. Upon first listen, the change may feel sudden and out of place, but Smino’s voice guides the listener, its calming presence acting as an instrument in its own right.

“Get a final say from the seance,” Smino says. “My beautiful angel. My beautiful angel’s Beyoncé-ance.”

Smino’s “Seance”/“Beyoncé-ance” couplet is just one of the many examples of his word-bending ability.

J. Cole makes an appearance in the third song, “90 Proof.” Fans were treated to this song in September when Smino debuted the track on a St. Louis radio station.

“Luv 4 Rent” as a concept comes into play for the first time in “90 Proof.” Smino touches on his difficulties in relationships, explaining that he knows he wants to settle down, but it is just not possible for him at the moment. “Not too great at relationships, but at least I try,” Smino says. “Patient, baby, gotta make a couple of rounds before I make it back to you and settle down.”

After the second chorus, listeners are given a sneak peek of J. Cole as he sings the bridge with Smino. Then, Cole is set free in the second verse, and he does not disappoint.

Cole is considered to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. He does not carry himself like a celebrity though. He is known for dressing in normal clothes without much flash or jewelry, which he mentions in his verse.

“I heard that you blowing up fast, but I think it’s better to slowly erupt,” Cole says.

He has preached to younger artists for years now about the importance of being smart with money and fame. Perhaps the most famous example of this was when Cole made a song directed at rapper Lil Pump. Cole wanted to let him know that money and fame can vanish in an instant, and that Lil Pump should reevaluate and make a change before it all disappeared.

In “90 Proof,” Cole drops a line with a similar message, claiming that it’s better for artists to see incremental growth at the beginning of their careers than to focus solely on wealth.

With a slight change in tone, Smino switches to more playful vibes on the next track.

“Spider-Man means Peter Park the coup. Skrrt,” Smino says on track four, “Pro Freak.”

It may be hard to comprehend just by reading the lyrics, but Smino makes the “skrrt” ad-lib sound both like a car stopping and the “er” at the end of “Peter Parker.” This multi-purpose sound is Smino in a nutshell.

On tracks six through nine of “Luv 4 Rent,” Smino takes listeners on a four-song emotional trip. Track six is titled “Louphoria,” and this is the first time on the album that Smino’s voice is not the first thing we hear. A spacey beat and a guitar cut through the openness of the background, setting the tone and creating a feeling of relaxed isolation. It’s almost as if you are walking alone at night on a college campus, but not in a way that feels scary or uncomfortable.

The next two songs on the album place Smino in an intoxicated state as the mood rises. On track eight, “Matinee,” Smino is clearly drinking and smoking, which becomes evident as early as his first line: “I’m so fly, I flew,” Smino says. “I’m so high, I’m who?”

After Smino has had his fun in the previous tracks, he turns to “Modenaminute,” a song set late at night after the partying. He is intoxicated and slurring words, hence the name.

On the outro of “Modenaminute,” Smino calls a Kroger grocery store to ask if they sell Backwoods Cigars. His hopeless romantic side is brought out when he starts to tell the girl on the other line that she “sounds cute.” Once again, the theme of “Luv 4 Rent” is on display.

Smino continues to drop clever lines, and every song throughout the remainder of the album has replay value. On the last track, he seems to be ready for a committed relationship. The album may come full circle, or it could be part of a cycle that repeats itself. Who knows?

What we do know is that Smino is back after four years and deserves much more recognition in the mainstream. While the content may not be earth-shattering, nobody else in music sounds like Smino. He truly is one of a kind, and “Luv 4 Rent” is his triumphant return.

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Liam Jackson

Michigan State University
Creative Writing

Liam Jackson is a senior at Michigan State studying journalism. He is the sports editor at Impact 89 FM in East Lansing.

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