If you’re not familiar with Smino, he’s part of the Zero Fatigue collective and record label, a musical crew that extends from Chicago to St. Louis. That includes the singer Ravyn Lenae and producer Monte Booker among others. While it’s early and in fact unwarranted to draw such comparisons, I get a Dungeon Family feel from them, with a clear interest in chasing their artistic ambitions as opposed to riding whatever currently trends on the charts. In fact the video for “90 Proof” featuring J. Cole wouldn’t be out of place as an OutKast or Goodie Mob clip. It’s “country” in the best possible way.

Collaboration with other artists is also a DF trait that Zero Fatigue embraces and “Luv 4 Rent” is no exception. You can hear Lil Uzi Vert on “Pudgy” (and no he’s not going “ya ya ya ya” the whole time), Phoelix and Lucky Daye on “Modennaminute,” and the biggest surprise to me was Doechii and Fatman Scoop on “Pro Freak.” This song hasn’t been released as a single as of the writing of this review, but with the right promotion and video behind it, I feel like it could be huge.

I’ve talked about their collective and their stylee, but what about Smino himself? Well he’s got a bit of a sing-song delivery, but he doesn’t rely on AutoTune to enhance it, nor does he use it as a substitute for not having anything to say. In fact if you take a closer examination of tracks like “Defibrillator” he has a lot to say about family love, self-love and self-worth. Smino is the rare rapper who is introspective as opposed to extroverted, and even though he’s successful enough that he could brag about his money and sex life, he went a different route.

“I wrote this song a thought-provoker
Empty heart that’s broke
Defibrillator full of flavor as I wrote my smoke
Wish I could pass it but this pan-ny turned me to germaphobe
Bitch we the wave and the boat, my heart been glacier cold
But if you needed to know…”

That’s the first time I’ve ever heard anybody call the global pandemic “pan-ny” but I don’t think it will be the last. In fact I imagine if we’re all here in a decade’s time we’ll be looking back at this musical era and how many people’s lives were irreparably changed by it, reflected in the thoughts the artists left in their music. That’s what I get from “Luv 4 Rent” — a well produced, well executed album by a young man who’s done been through some shit. Rather than let life get him down, he has a heart full of hope and friends who like him believe they can work together to be successful. I hope 2023 has that and more in store for Zero Fatigue.

Smino :: Luv 4 Rent
8Overall Score