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Curren$y – Pilot Talk

March 14, 2011

Like so many white boys, my path towards the acceptance of black music (particularly rap-based) was laden with reluctance and – probably more than I’d like to admit – ignorance and xenophobia. And although I’d like to thank my peers for the part their cajoling played in this acceptance, I’m almost certain this epiphany would not have been possible without a vital catalyst – cannabis.

Curren$y – The Hangover

With the exception of classical music, virtually all strains of contemporary western music were originally spawned in the minds of black men; a phenomena that uniquely defied subjugation – not repeated in any other form of art. But this is merely an observation – an observation which I ignored until my early twenties when, whilst intoxicated, I began to appreciate music on a plane of consciousness I hadn’t previously experienced. Since then, the floodgates have been open and I realise now that black music consistently weaves a more direct route to my psyche – a highway to the soul – devoid of the frenetic guardedness of white music…and I love it for that.

Despite this, rap music remains something of an enigma for me. With its increasing stress on slick production and defined song-structures, hip-hop seems to be finding a logical conclusion in a pop-music framework; with an ever-growing array of rap superstars merging the hip-hop sound with established pop and indie artists.  Of course, there is no growth without change, yet this frenzied syncretism does seem to undermine the fidelity of the genre that originated from the streets. For this reason I have always looked for artists that felt closer to the true essence of hip-hop – as defined by me – yet struggled to sate my futile hunger. The fact is, hip-hop is essentially a postmodern approach; an amalgam of past music and poetry – its reliance on samples negating any notion of a “true essence.” In reality, all I wanted from my search was to become closer to my primal hip-hop experience; the sound that defined what I’ve always considered to be good hip-hop. (Maybe this is the same for everyone? I’d like to know what you think.)

This selectivity has afforded few artists I didn’t like on first listen the benefit of a second play, and over time this has caused my fervour for the hip-hop genre to diminish – with most of the hip-hop I do like, being from the 90s, now essentially a dormant relic from the past. Perhaps it was with a tinge of fate, then, that I stumbled across New Orleans rapper Curren$y’s major-label debut, Pilot Talk.

Curren$y (Shante Anthony Franklin a.k.a Spitta) is instantly able to put me in a place where I am able to feel his music without a desire to intellectualise it; like a synthetic simulation of being high. This is probably in part due to the fact that Franklin seems to spend the majority of his time stoned; driving his car around The Big Easy or in front of his “X-box web browser” with a “condo full of snacks.” Cannabis undoubtedly influences the defining aesthetic of Curren$y’s music, which constantly draws from funk, R&B and soul influences for a sultry and blissful effect. Yet, despite obviously trying to evoke a state of highness, Curren$y is never at risk of sounding slow or cumbersome; his rapping is fleet-footed and paired with some very well measured production.

Acclaim should go the way of Ski Beatz, who is responsible for producing most of the tracks on Pilot Talk. It’s clear from the tracks that he didn’t produce that there is a temptation to drench Curren$y’s weed-infused rhymes under dense layers of synths, but unfortunately this stifles the playful nature of Spitta’s writing. Ski Beatz favours a cleaner approach to compliment the varying styles on this album, with the punchy but agile bass proving a real highlight on tracks like ‘Example’ and ‘Breakfast,’ making a competent soundsystem a must for listening to Pilot Talk.

The interplay between treble and bass is intriguing throughout Curren$y’s work with Ski Beatz. There is virtually no mid-range on some songs; this area being left solely for Spitta’s rapping – but this is not simply a utilitarian move. It is the sheer distance between the gentle highs of the treble and the almost inaudibly low bass that is revealing; it creates the feeling of being simultaneously grounded, and yet at the same time flying (wait…I know this feeling.)

A great example is ‘Flight Briefing’ (below) in which airy strings swell alongside dulcet wurlitzer tones during the sparse intro which feels light; almost weightless. “With these lazy eyes I’ve seen/More than you can see in seven lifetimes” raps Franklin before the beat is defiantly dropped and, layer by layer, the sanitised intro becomes slowly more corrupted.

Curren$y – Flight Briefing

The various references to air travel throughout the song compliment the feeling of ascension that the song structure provides, but they also draw a blatant parallel between flying and getting high – a connection that Curren$y continuously draws upon throughout Pilot Talk (an album with planes on the cover, duh). Yet any further research into Curren$y will reveal that air travel, planes, jets and suchlike form more than an obsession for Spitta, it’s a lifestyle.

At first I was confused. From the many frankly weird interviews on YouTube, it was clear that Spitta likes saying “jets” a lot – “jets fool” this, “jets nigga” that. Yet only urban dictionary could shed some light on the matter. “J.E.T.S.”, it turns out, is an acronym which stands for: “Just Enjoy This Shit.” The explanation is linked directly to a quote from Curren$y himself:

I realized that at the end of the day, the time that we got, we’re stuck here and there is nothing you can really do unless you gonna check yourself out. Unless you gonna kill yourself, in the meantime just enjoy this shit. Nobody can really do shit to you. So through all the shit I been through, I always maintained the same attitude because I always felt I was right.

It was pleasant to read this, firstly because it instantly reminded me of the refrain from possibly my favourite Curren$y track, ‘The Hangover’: “Have the time of your life before all your time run out/Put those bottles on ice while I roll another one up.” But secondly because I really quite appreciate Franklin’s ideology – too many rappers seem to treat the materialistic success they have acquired with greed and paranoia. In fact, it seems a general western mentality to look at a world in which we have everything and react with fear. I admit that this is a subjective interpretation of “JETS”, but I truly enjoy this positivity from a rapper; it harks back to the late 80s jazz rap movement that saw rap as a medium for affirmation and peace, not aggression.

In conclusion, I have finally found in Curren$y what I had been looking for from a hip-hop artist for a long time. Like a lot of Stax soul, good hip-hop – as defined by me – should have the ability to saturate me with awe from the first listen and maintain the ability to move me, both physically and emotionally, listen after listen. On this note, I shall leave you with ‘The Day’ (feat. Jay Electronica & Mos Def), perhaps the most inspiring of Curren$y’s many tuuunes.

Jets fool.

Curren$y – The Day

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. jouliejools permalink
    March 14, 2011 10:34 am

    Stoner!!
    Seriously, I really like your way of describing music, and this post is by far your best one. I only start to understand that rap music is only playing with its slick and shallow facet, and I have to admit, I’m loving it. (and come on, the ‘$’ as an ‘s’… this is hilarious!)
    I’m definetly gonna keep on listenning to him because I’m just enjoying this shit.

  2. j-diz permalink
    March 14, 2011 7:43 pm

    These be some dope fresh summer jamz right here cuzzy. Listening to this is making me hanker for summer! Can’t believe I’ve never heard of this guy before, I really like the chilled back feeling. As soon as the sun comes out properly, I’m having a BBQ and putting this bad boy on – and you’re all invited.

    • marininha.dias permalink
      March 16, 2011 10:41 am

      aow yes! Curren$y partey!

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