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‘90 Proof’ Single Review: Smino and J. Cole are Back at it Again

Single cover for Smino & J. Cole's single "90 Proof."
Single cover for Smino & J. Cole's single "90 Proof." By Courtesy of Smino and J. Cole / Zero Fatigue / Motown Records / EQT
By Najya S. Gause, Contributing Writer

Smino and J. Cole dropped their new collaborative single “90 Proof,” the first release from Smino’s forthcoming album “Luv 4 Rent.” Produced by Monte Booker and Groove, the track immediately demands the bopping of heads, cut through by the characteristic melodies of Smino’s flow. “Luv 4 Rent,” release date unknown, is set to be the St. Louis rapper’s third studio album, following his 2018 sophomore album “Noir” and his 2017 album “Blkswn.” This is not Smino’s first collaboration with J. Cole, whose most recent album, “The Off Season,” dropped in May 2021. They appeared together on “1993” and “Sacrifices” from Cole’s Dreamville compilation record “Revenge of the Dreamers III” in 2019.

“90 Proof” samples “E Ma S'eka” by Bola Johnson & His Easy Life Top Beats over a warm guitar and sharp drum beat. Smino begins his verse with vodka-strength honesty, confessing, “Don’t blame yourself for all the shit you see me do/ I’m getting used to being loved, girl / The right way.” He admits that he might finally be ready for the monogamous lifestyle with the lyrics “Patient, baby, gotta make a couple rounds / 'Fore I make it back to you to settle down.” Cole uses his verse to speak on loyalty, telling listeners that he might have finally found a “real one” who wouldn’t leave him even if he was broke.

On Oct. 5, Smino also released an official visualizer to accompany the track. Directed by Phillip Youmans, the video is more of a sketch than a music video. In the video, Smino’s partner asks to see his phone. After initially refusing, he takes a shot of 90 Proof vodka and gives up his phone, saying he has nothing to hide. The video ends with an ad-like shot of a cheeky Smino smiling and holding up a bottle of 90 Proof.

The track’s cover art depicts a mean wince on Smino’s face, contrasting the silky and smooth-sounding song with a beautiful portrayal of Smino’s outlook on love — sometimes it’s hard to swallow. If the rest of “Luv 4 Rent” is anything like “90 Proof,” fans are surely in for a treat.

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