Review: Blxckie ‘4LUV (Deluxe)’

Blxckie’s 4LUV (Deluxe) combines creative production with sharp storytelling and honest expression about love

 By Sabelo Mkhabela

Adding four songs to his February release, the 4LUV EP, Blxckie carries on his R&B stint, which he recently described as “a phase” with the release of the project’s deluxe version. 4LUV (Deluxe) combines creative production with sharp storytelling and honest expression about love.

Even though his claims to fame were rappity rap songs like ‘Big Time Sh’lappa’ and ‘Ah Ah Ah Ah’, both collaborations with his Durban homeboy Lucasraps, Blxckie has established himself as a genre-agnostic artist, having worked with amapiano artists like DJ Maphorisa and Young Stunna. His debut album B4now showcased the different colours of Blxckie. With hip-hop at the centre, he experimented with amapiano, R&B and Afrobeats.

4LUV saw him explore his vocal side, crooning about love’s pleasures and complications over soulful production, underscored by twinkling Rhodes keys and mushy pads. They underpin his layered vocals of different registers, sent flying in all directions by reverb.

A different side

During the listening session for the original 4LUV back in February, Blxckie said his reason for putting the project together was to: “show a different side of myself. After seeing the success of ‘Hold’ and other love songs that I have out.”

The deluxe doesn’t only come with new songs, but also a different arrangement of tracks. 4LUV (Deluxe) opens with ‘cold’, an admission to toxicity; he sings about being with a woman who can’t resist him even though he’s hurt her a few times. “She gon’ pull up on me even though she knows/ I got a couple waiting in line that are just like her,” he sings. Blxckie described the song as the opposite of ‘Hold’, an endearing fan-favourite from B4Now. On ‘cry’, the song that follows, he sings about mending his ways and offers a shoulder to cry on to his woman, singing, “So, why would you go far from me, you know that’s not safe/ Just let out a cry for me, I’ll be on my way.”

On ‘fortune teller’, a smitten Blxckie and guest Nicole Elocin sing jovially about being aligned with a lover: “I said I love you more than you would ever know/ Are you a fortune teller, how you read my mind/ Come listen, mister, you’re blowing my mind.” ‘fortune teller’, which is produced by London Rhodes, is a nod to old school R&B with finger snaps and electro-acoustic strings and that thumping bassline you grew up to.

‘weep’ is one of the most intimate songs on 4LUV. The first part of the song in which he assures: “All the sh*t you’ve been through, oh, I cannot let you weep/ Want you to feel safe with me,” is catchy, while the second part mellows down after a beat switch. According to Blxckie, the change in tempo signifies the process of love-making itself.

Personal stories

‘your all’ is carried by hauntingly dark keys that are placed apart from each other, causing Blxckie’s stacked vocals to leap steadily from one chord to another. The song is yet another one where he sings about mending his ways: “I know you’re hurting and I could be the catalyst/ Could be the one that’s causing it/ I’m moving, I can’t stop it, girl, I’m sorry.” On the first verse, he touches on deserting her as he pursues his dream – singing: “Made a promise, that I won’t let you down, counting commas, make my whole family proud,” and later, adding she’s his muse: “See how far we go if you stick by what you told me/ You gas me up, really feel like I am chosen, sometimes I say these things and you feel like I’m joking/ You have my soul, girl, you have my soul.”

The song feels like one that could be based on Blxckie’s personal experiences. “Most of the songs that I’m doing now are mostly stories of people that I’ve heard,” Blxckie said during the listening session in February, “but there’s also [a thing] of me being in that situation. My come-up was super quick, and a lot of emotions I didn’t get to feel; a lot of relationships I didn’t get to grow.”

‘of course’ also feels close to Blxckie, as he sings about overlooking his lover while moving up. “I been in my bag, in my bag, yes, of course/ I’ma hit you back when I land, yes of course,” he sings on the chorus. His vocals glide through airy synth swathes and a wide bassline. The song is free of drums, and Blxckie shared on Twitter that it was recorded without any instrumental about two years ago. “We did those instruments with Zwaye a few weeks back,” he tweeted.

‘4me’ similarly has no drums. Blxckie shared that the song initially had a beat but he “stripped it down for vibes”. The absence of drums, just like on ‘of course’ places the attention on a saxophone solo and a selection of synths, making for one of the tastiest musical moments of the 4LUV (Deluxe) album.

R&B-’piano

‘Umoya’ meshes the aforementioned Rhodes keys and pads with amapiano’s wonted log drum. Amapiano is a genre that has proven flexible, having been incorporated into a variety of genres like Afrobeats, house, Afro-pop and hip-hop. According to Blxckie, ‘umoya’ was recorded two days after ‘kwenzekile’, his 2021 hit featuring Madumane and Chang Cello, and produced by Herc Cut The Lights. “Shout-out to Herc,” Blxckie said during the aforementioned listening session. “We’ve been trying to create a certain sound, which is slowing down amapiano beats, have super-crazy chord progressions and just sing over them, instead of just rapping. I have a knack and love for kwaito and slow-tempo-type of things, and to sing on them is a joy to me.

“Seeing the success of ‘kwenzekile’ and ‘sika’, I was like, it would be dope to have a song of that genre we tryna create and just make it more romantic.”

The deluxe comes with another song that takes the same direction: ‘ngivelelwe’ – a song about falling out of love. Blxckie is joined by Durban singer GARDENOTGOD, who comes armed with an airy falsetto that excels in both his verse and backing vocals on Blxckie’s parts. ‘ngivelelwe’ is both mellow and upbeat, and if there’s a song on 4LUV (Deluxe) that proves Blxckie is having fun with his art, it’s this one. He even manages to throw in a giggle between lines towards the end.

‘sneaky’, his collaboration with Pretoria rap superstar Reece, is yet another triumphant song – bouncy and catchy in its mellowness. Released a week before the deluxe, ‘sneaky’ divided fans, as some were expecting a rap song or banger between the two rappers. But ‘sneaky’, a sexually charged thumper, was created to fit the theme of the project. ‘sneaky’ is a true collaboration; the two both contribute to the chorus; Reece delivers a rap verse and handles the bridge. Not a case of just emailing a verse.

‘sneaky’ won’t cause mosh pits like Blxckie’s collaboration with Nasty C, ‘YeX4’, which it was compared to by some fans on Twitter, but it fits perfectly on 4LUV (Deluxe).

Stream 4LUV (Deluxe) on Apple Music and Spotify.

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