Five years ago Curren$y was a sidekick. The only New Orleans MC garnering any type of real national attention was Lil Wayne, and as his lablemate at the time, Spitta was languishing on the Cash Money roster, fighting for mic time on mixtapes like The Dedication 2.
I’m going to be dead honest, back then there simply was nothing special about the droopy-faced rapper with the drawling flow. His subject matter was tired and cliche (cars, women, guns, money), he lacked charisma, and to top it all off, he almost seemed like a less clever clone of his then-mentor.
Fast forward to 2009. Spitta had now cliqued-up with Dame Dash, and as a result, was steadily working with the legendary Ski Beatz. He’d formed an alliance with fellow pothead, Wiz Khalifa, and suddenly a brand began to take shape. Riding the magic carpet of Ski’s versatile production somehow seemed to bring out the best in him. Suddenly his lyrics began to lean more toward the abstract. He had stumbled upon a rhyme style that was unmistakably original. Verses about bitches and weed that that once would have sounded contrived were spiced and flavored with Spitta’s non-sequiturs and verbal snapshots. He’d become a rap-Seinfeld — turning the mundane and the cliche into refreshing art.
“X-Box web browser, downloaded, updated NBA roster / play an 82-game season / condo full of snacks, Spitta not leavin’ / off brand muthafuckas, odd number, you are not even / on my level, write that sickness, my ink pen sneezin’ / Yancey Thigpen, can’t catch me sleepin””
I don’t know about y’all, but the idea of an inkpen sneezing is something I’ve never conceived before; and I don’t think I ever would have had it not been for this man’s wild imagination. Curren$y’s humor and his ability to open his mind to sub-conscious imagery is a skill that I haven’t observed in an MC since Ghostface in his Supreme Clientele-era prime.
The album kicks off with the top-of-the-world electric guitar licks of “Example” — a gift from Ski Beatz that has Spitta boasting that he is “an example of what can happen when you quit being afraid to gamble.” This sets the tone for the entire project, leading perfectly into the laid-back bass & steel-drum groove of “Audio Dope II.” I had the opportunity to listen to an advance copy, and I must say that comparing it to the finished product gave me new respect for the art of sequencing. Where the original tracklisting seemed haphazard, listening to the final product gave me new found appreciation for songs I’d already heard (and not been too impressed by) simply because their updated placement.
A related problem (that I’ve heard echoed throughout the internets by many a c-section junkie) is that the songs we’ve all heard before are now played out. While the previously-leaked versions of blog/mixtape smashes like “Breakfast” and “Life Under The Scope” were still intact on the advance copy, the mastered versions that appear on the final album are something to marvel at.
On “Breakfast” Mos Def’s original downplayed horns are re-invigorated with some live, improvisational counterparts — providing a fresh new swing and pocket to cradle Spitta’s stream-of-conciousness gems. With added chimes and deft mixing, Ski adds warmth and dimension to “Life Under The Scope”‘s skeleton keyboard-backing for the updated cut. This also happens to close the album out in a dreamy haze that seems to perfectly define the overall tone of Spitta’s music.
In between all this, Pilot Talk offers up standard filler, but seemlessly integrated with the stand-outs. While tracks like “The Hangover” and “Skybourne” aren’t breathtaking, they provide nice mellow backdrops suitable for rotation at summer-time cookouts and lazy afternoons on the stoop. On “The Day,” Jay Electronica (as always) upstages the headlining MC on his own track with his characteristic insightful playfulness:
“always call a spade a spade / be like Chuck D, never be like Flavor Flav / but that clock around his neck is so fly / and the way he complimentin’ Chucky with that bowtie make me feel high”
Fellow Jets crew-members Trademark the Skydiver and Young Roddy lend their infectious drawls as a solid supporting-cast for “Roasted” while Curren$y refuses to fade into the background. He spits with an impressive viciousness — gettin’ it “crackin’ like lobsters” and sprinkling in that good ol’ Spitta charm to claim the track as his own.
Despite all of it’s successes, the fact is that the album doesn’t reach perfection, which I imagine is what most Jets fans might have been expecting from it. I will argue that it’s a superior piece of work and certainly one of the better hip hop releases so far this year. Ski Beatz, Spitta on the track — as far as I’m concerned, the product seems more than worthy of the brand.