Weed and hip hop have a relationship that goes way, way back. As a a result, this reviewer remembers one person assuming I must be smoking back in high school because “you listen to rap, don’t you?”
Few current rappers get as much mileage out of the pleasures of lighting one up as Curren$y. The New Orleans native makes clever allusions to it, talks about it outright, and even when he spins tales about the opposite sex, they inevitably want to hang with him so they can smoke with him.
Yet anyone who’s followed him on his winding road (dude was signed to No Limit and Young Money in the past before ending up with Damon Dash) to his first official studio album, Pilot Talk, knows Curren$y is more than just a one-trick pony. He’s got a full batch of arrows in his lyrical quiver, and they’re pretty much all unleashed on his debut.
You want confident? Curren$y does that in style on “King Kong,” boasting that the big gorilla “ain’t got shit on me.” He takes a more inspirational direction on “Example,” talking about how being true to one’s self can pay off, and on “The Day,” where he gets welcome assists from Mos Def and Jay Electronica.
“Prioritize (Beeper Bill)” comes with some pointed advice in the chorus, with the rapper suggesting “If you ain’t got no rims, nigga, don’t get no wood grain steering wheel./ But you can lay back, let your paper stack. / Instead of going into overkill, pay your fucking beeper bill.” The smooth final track, “Life Under The Scope,” is just as astute a look at the downside to fame as anything you’ll find on Drake’s recent album, except less paranoid (yeah, despite the weed).
Helping it all come together is the guiding hand of Ski Beatz, who produced or co-produced all but two songs. The overall vibe is mellow, as you might expect, but there are enough changes in tone and tempo to keep things interesting.
And while having just one man behind the boards can sometimes lead to monotony, Ski takes influences from jazz, funk and rock and mixes them together to form a near perfect complement to Curren$y’s flow. It may not be the most commercial sound – perhaps part of the reason the album ended up as DD172/BluRoc instead of becoming the vanguard of a revitalized Roc-A-Fella – but it’s compelling, and there’s no doubt that it works.
Don’t fret if you like to light up: Curren$y still has plenty to say on “some of the good things that weed can do” on tracks like “The Hangover” and “Chilled Coughphee.” Just keep in mind that Pilot Talk can’t be dismissed as simply smoke, because there’s some definite fire on there too.
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