After each having released their third and arguably most successful solo albums in 2022, J.I.D and Smino have joined forces in 2023 as co-headliners on the Luv Is 4Ever Tour, and have been on the road across North America since January. The tour is named after the pair’s latest albums, J.I.D’s The Forever Story and Smino’s Luv 4 Rent, which have each taken their respective artists to new heights in their careers. Both J.I.D and Smino have been on similar trajectories in recent years, having individually headlined shows at The Phoenix Concert Theatre last time they toured separately in Toronto in 2019, and now growing their fan bases large enough to co-headline two sold-out shows at the newer, larger History Nightclub. After already rocking Toronto on Monday, March 13th, this second show on Wednesday at History would be the last Canadian stop of the tour, as they previously hit Vancouver and Montreal among the several USA tour dates in between.
While I was admittedly unfamiliar with Smino going into this show, only knowing his feature on Dreamville’s 2019 track “Sacrifices” and briefly listening to the new album a week before the show, I have been a huge J.I.D fan since he signed to Dreamville Records and released his debut album, The Never Story. I had previously seen him open for J. Cole at Scotiabank Arena back in 2017, and saw him and EarthGang steal the show at the Made In America Festival that same year in Philadelphia, but this would be my first time seeing him perform as a headliner. It’s been a long time coming, as he’s continued to grow as an emcee and showcase himself as one of the brightest talents in this new generation of rappers, and I’ve unfortunately had to miss all of his prior headlining shows in Toronto over the years.
This would be just my second time catching a concert at History, the new venue Drake established in 2021, and would be my first time experiencing the club during the winter. While Drake’s All-Canadian NorthStars show last summer went smoothly, this time had plenty of delays with us getting settled in, which caused us to miss the opening performers. The line to get into the venue stretched around the corner of the building even 45 minutes after doors had opened, and those wanting to use the coat-check had to maneuver through the crowd to the opposite side of the club from the entrance and up the stairs, cutting through another long line of fans waiting to buy some merch. Maybe it’s my own fault for showing up late, but by the time I got through all these lines and got a first round of drinks (the bar actually moved pretty quickly), the opener had wrapped up their set and it was time for the two co-headliners.
It seems J.I.D and Smino have been taking turns closing out the shows throughout the tour. While the set times posted for Monday’s Toronto show had J.I.D going on last, this show surprised the fans by flipping the script, with J.I.D coming out first. The stage was set with large screens in the shape of two hearts at center-stage, the band members and DJ set up along the two corners, and J.I.D appearing as they played him in to the intro track off the new album, “Galaxy.” The crowd got turned up as J.I.D started off with the oldest song he’d perform for the evening, 2017’s “Never,” with the live drummer adding extra energy to both beats in the song. It’s crazy to think that this was once the grand finale he’d use to close out his shows, and now he’s opening his set with this same song, cranking the energy up from the beginning. The crowd would join in with adlibs and by finishing some of J.I.D’s lines for him as he ripped through the entire track, the beat-change midway bringing another burst of energy.
With “Never” being the only song J.I.D would perform off his debut album, he would move on to his second album, DiCaprio 2, but not before taking the time to introduce each of his band members, which included a drummer, a keyboardist, and J.I.D’s frequent collaborator and producer Christo behind the turntables. This set the fans up nicely to add that extra energy when filling in Christo’s producer tag in the first few bars as J.I.D performed “Off Da Zoinkys,” the beat sounding extra soulful with the live instrumentation and getting the crowd extra hyped as the keyboardist pulled out a keytar for a solo towards the end of the track. You knew this was going to be a unique performance since it’s not everyday you see a keytar played at a Hip-Hop show.
J.I.D would next thank all the fans who’ve supported him during his latest album run, getting everyone to make a heart symbol with their hands for what he called a “heart check,” and he’d get the mosh pits to break out as he dove into several tracks off the new album. “Raydar” and “Dance Now” had the crowd the most hyped, getting everyone to jump, and heads were nodding as J.I.D effortlessly ripped through his verses on “Crack Sandwich.” With the latter track being one of those songs where J.I.D gives a snapshot of what it was like growing up in Atlanta in a large family with seven siblings, he would then start to get more mellowed out and introspective with each of the next few songs, performing “Bruddanem,” followed by “Sistanem.” He’d follow up with another highlight, performing what he called his favourite song off the new album and getting everyone to wave their arms and sing along to that addictive hook on “Kody Blu 31.” “Swang on, swang onnnnn!!”
With that last one being one of the most emotional songs on the album, showcasing J.I.D’s ever improving singing talents, he promised we’d get to a happier place if we followed him on this journey, and he would definitely deliver. After getting the crowd to sing along to “Workin Out” and light up their cell phones and lighters for “Stars,” he would crank the energy up again by performing “Just In Time,” getting the crowd to jump again. While “Kody Blu” had J.I.D arguably singing at his best, next would be a showcase of his incredible rapping talent, as he sped it up and went chopper style for the DiCaprio 2 single “Off Deez.” He’d do a back-and-forth with the crowd for the intro of his verse before ripping the rapid-fire flow word for word on his own, absolutely killing it! Christo would let the song continue for J. Cole’s guest feature, with J.I.D getting the crowd to help fill in and cover the verse.
After the J. Cole verse, J.I.D would keep Dreamville Records on the mind, reminding the fans of some of the accolades he’s helped them achieve and performing his verse from the 2019 Grammy-nominated single, “Down Bad.” Next would be a cool moment for older Hip-Hop heads and fans who appreciate dope samples. With the two heart-shaped screens, one would show images of Aretha Franklin performing “One Step Ahead,” and the other would show Yasiin Bey (f/k/a Mos Def)’s music video for “Ms. Fat Booty,” which samples the Aretha track. J.I.D would actually pay tribute to Yasiin Bey by performing a cover of his song, rocking a verse before abruptly switching to his own song that uses the same sample, “Surround Sound.” The crowd turned up to the trap beat and J.I.D slayed his verses, even with the beat-change midway through the song.
To close out his set, J.I.D would pull out the most hype songs of the entire evening, getting more mosh pits to break out for his 2018 single “151 Rum,” and the crowd giving even more energy for the Dreamville anthem “Stick.” J.I.D made sure to warn his fans to look out for each other as we all turned up for these final tracks, making sure no one got hurt during the chaos. The beat from “Stick” would continue on for a bit as each of the band members got to perform a solo, with the keytar being pulled out again and the drummer going off at the end. The room was hot with all the energy in the crowd, as plenty of fans were left covered in sweat and spilled drinks. After an hour of J.I.D killing the stage, the fans hit the bars to get some much needed hydration, and after a bit of a break it would be time for Smino.
Besides the handful of songs that I knew, this would be my first time experiencing most of Smino’s music. Like J.I.D, he also had a band backing him up, with live drums, a guitarist, and a DJ, plus had a background singer who showed off some wicked vocals to test the mic, and a dancer who would occasionally join him on stage. The vibe wasn’t quite the same as J.I.D’s, as J.I.D had the high-energy songs with rapid-fire, chopper style raps and an emphasis on the lyricism, whereas Smino comes off as more of a soulful vocalist with psychedelic dance songs focused on the energy and the feel more than the raw raps. While their styles are much different, the contrast still works nicely for the live show, as we got to just bounce and vibe out to Smino’s music after moshing and jumping around to J.I.D.
Smino performed like a rock star, showing off his unique cadences and using his backup singer effectively to cover the many layers of vocals in his songs. He’d get the crowd participating throughout his set, keeping up the Luv Is 4ever theme with occasional “heart checks,” and always getting the reaction he wanted from the crowd. He even brought a fan on stage to rap with him at one point. While I didn’t know many of his songs, I can say the showmanship was impressive, and that he nailed a wide range of vocals throughout his set.
Highlights for me included when he would take a break to tell a story about doing mushrooms and smoking weed, almost like a stand-up comedy routine with the band filling in sound effects, and this would turn into a performance of “Flea Flicka,” with the band almost playing around Smino’s vocals as opposed to Smino rapping over a beat. Others of course included songs off the new album, including “90 Proof,” “Louphoria,” and a hype track that got the ladies dancing, “Pro Freak.” Smino would close out his set with the party track “No L’s” and it was good vibes all around, as the fans knew to chant along to the hook with him, and the band got to shine with each member performing a solo. Smino would stick around to sign some autographs, and while some of the fans chanted for more, that would be the end of the show with no encore from either J.I.D or Smino.
This show was overall a fun time celebrating two artists who are currently at their best. As a long-time J.I.D fan, it was a proud moment seeing him rock a crowd of this size, with everyone primarily there to see him as opposed to him opening for another artist. It was also fun to experience Smino’s music for the first time, as he put on an incredible show that still translates even without knowing all the songs.
To me, it would have made more sense to have Smino go on before J.I.D, as J.I.D just brought a ton more energy to the stage, but maybe I’m just being biased as a J.I.D fan. Smino’s set was fun to groove to, but J.I.D easily got a bigger reaction from the crowd. Regardless, both of these artists are bound to have years of success ahead of them as they continue to build on their discographies and prove their longevity. The Luv Is 4Ever Tour may be their biggest yet, but I have a feeling they will keep rocking even bigger stages in the future.
The Luv Is 4Ever Tour is in its final stretch as it makes its way through the mid-west with shows in Detroit, Chicago, Kansas City and Nashville, among others. Tickets can be found at luvis4ever.com!
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