Curren$y Curren$yPilot Talk
“Pilot Talk” is coming in loud and clear to deny some of the universally-accepted stereotypes about the rap game. The first: the official debut of any new artist is never as good as his or her previous mixtapes. False. After toughening up indiscriminately in the field of street launches, unofficial advances, and warm-up leaks, measures of pressure so that he wouldn’t lose contact with his fans after how No Limit Records blew him off, New Orleans rapper Curren$y has left all of the negative minds and their predictions about “legal” debuts in the dust, and this album is destined to become one of the big rap albums of the summer and of the season. In fact, the contents of the album are better than his introductory mixtapes, in large part thanks to the overwhelming production work of the great Ski Beatz, who burns 90% of the album’s basslines. This marks the celebrated reappearance of the producer of Camp Lo (also that of the historic Original Flavor or of some of the pearls of Jay-Z’s debut album, let’s not forget), who is putting out his best collection of basslines in a very long time, a work that is intricate, complex, ambitious, and very lucid, with the sample as the point of departure, but with an amazing mastery of instruments applied to his modus operandi. It has a sound that is classic and fresh at the same time, prodigious.
Another stereotype: there is no weed rap in the South. A sub-genre in itself, weed rap has never been especially active or effective in New Orleans and the South, it’s true, particularly because purple drank has reigned and continues to reign with an iron hand as the basic musical influence on Southern rappers, but once again, a legend is being turned on its head. Curren$y steers clear of this norm and the stereotype with a wonderful exercise in geographical contextualisation that has more connections with a picture of Brooklyn in the summer –you know, kids in the street, old folks sitting on the stoop, ladies looking out of their windows, fire hydrants broken and spraying out water, ice cream trucks– than with a Southern ghetto. And of course there is the extreme, omnipresent cult, almost a leitmotiv of all of the contents, of pot. More critical people will accuse Curren$y of being an MC with a one-track mind—getting high with marijuana is the main driving force behind the lyrics and the situations set up by the author. They are ordinary episodes, without much of a story, of an afternoon wasted in the street or at home burning joints, but set out and expressed with flair, with talent, with solid, ingenious rhymes, and especially with an enviable evocative ability. Even if you’re turned off by the whole weed thing, like me, you won’t have any problem getting into his smoking universe and savouring it as if you were with him.
More stereotypes dealt with: Damon Dash is finished. Not by a long shot. Jay-Z’s ex-partner is not only the one responsible for the label that’s putting out the album, and the guy who took Curren$y under his wing contractually when they blew off the launch of his official debut at No Limit—it’s also mostly down to him that Ski Beatz, his close friend and collaborator since the days of Original Flavor, took over the production and gave Curren$y’s discourse a new, more credible, profound, and exciting focus. Not to take merit away from the artist, but without Ski Beatz, this album wouldn’t be what it is, and we owe that entirely to Damon Dash, who has already shown us with the Blakroc project that he is back and wants to make some noise. In fact, his contribution also does away with another stereotype, this one more trustworthy and true, which contaminates everything these days: mainstream rap is corrupt and subject to a very predictable, marked musical formula, which is repeated until you can’t take it any more. “Pilot Talk” aspires to be a “big” album, but if we compare it to the launches that we could consider to be “big” we’ll quickly see that it has nothing in common with them. It stands alone, with a sound that is personal, daring and classic at the same time, and which flees from photocopied singles and radio and MTV criteria, with an MC whose manners that are very different from the average at the tops of the charts. We finally have the feeling that we are following a new artist with evident possibilities of making it big, who has chosen a totally different route than the order established in the higher echelons of the genre. It’s a triumph of personality.
“Pilot Talk” isn’t Southern. It isn’t a consensus album. It’s also not metrosexual. Nor does it lean towards boom bap nostalgia. It doesn’t sound like anything, which is the best possible compliment that can be given to a hip hop album these days, ragingly modern, very summery, a hundred percent inspired, black, street, but also sophisticated, elegant, and very settled. There are some guest collaborators, in just the right doses: Jay Electronica, Mos Def (who also produces a song), Snoop Dogg, Devin The Dude, and that’s about it. Its pretensions are few and fairly honest ones, thirteen short songs, no skits, and nothing out of place. The result is infinitely better than the most optimistic expectations and outlooks could foresee, and today it is one of the most comforting surprises of the season. A really big surprise.
Curren$y - "Audio Dope II"