New Orleans Curren$y has without question been one of the most prolific emcees over the last 2 years. Since 2008, he has dropped 9 mixtapes and 2 albums. Even more amazing than the sheer output has been the consistent quality of these offerings. As his popularity has risen, Curren$y has recognized the need to transition his talents to the more structured discipline of creating memorable albums. With Pilot Talk, he seeks to streamline the work began with his debut (This Aint No Mixtape) and the sophomore LP (Jet Files).
A staple of Curren$y mixtapes are engaging intros usually accompanied by a lush sample. The tradition is continued here with Example, which kicks off with a screeching 80s power ballad guitar riffs. Spitta speaks on his career being an example of what is possible when people pursue their dreams. Its a nice teaser; nothing too heavy on the lyrical or production side but intrigues the listener for what is to come. Audio Dope II has slower drums than the original, which complements the drugged out theme. But the track still has life due to being surrounded with a rolling steel pan melody, and Spitta framing his rhymes around his art being an addictive narcotic (Audio dope we track-trafficking/And they asking for more/Is you back again?").
Curren$y gets a song-stealing cameo from Snoop Dogg on Seat Change. Ski Beatz supplies a perfect Funkadelic guitar-infused rhythm to accentuate Snoops trademark flow (Artistically in the midst of me/Im mystically and magical/The way I form the group/And make it smooth/I mean cuz my shit is like classical). Mos Def delivers the first non Ski-Beatz exclusive beat with a modified version of Breakfast. The dominant brass instruments from the original are lowered to give Curren$ys low-key voice a stronger presence. But just as the track appears to get going its over; Spitta only has one verse and Mos Def strangely begins crooning the chorus from the Karate Kid song Youre the Best Around.
The LPs second half is overrun with guest spots, but for the most part they do not diminish the quality. Young Roddy and Trademark da Skydriver round out Monsta Beatz melodic Roasted, which will remind you of the dozens of songs from the trios mixtape blitz in 2008. One of the best collaborations is due to newcomer Big K.R.I.T. on Skybourne. The Mississippi emcee excels not due to the complexcity of his rhyme schemes, but through a conversational and authoritative flow that is reminiscent of T.I.s early albums.
Mos Def and Jay Electronicas appearances on The Day warrant an East Coast boom bap beat from Ski Beatz. The collective has chemistry and already appear to be a capable super-group. Mos handles chorus duties and Electronica gives a quick history lesson using Hip-Hop legends to explain his direction (Always call a spade a spade/Be like Chuck D/Never be like Flava Flav I pray this flow is dumb enough/I pray my heart is Rev. Run and DMC enough ).
Prioritize (Beeper Bill) is one of the big album highlights. Its urgent pace breaks the chill mode that defines most of the album, and manifests an aggressive Curren$y. As weve heard on his mixtapes the chorus is a reference to an influence, this time a appropriated Big Boi line from Aquemini ( If you aint got not rims nigga dont get no wood grain steering wheel/But you can lay back and let your paper stack/Instead of going into overkill pay your fucking beeper bill bitch!). Although Curren$ys lifestyle is tailor made for laid back weed anthems, hes very adept at spitting out faster-paced bars and should make a point to showcase it more.
The one humorous moment comes courtesy of Devin the Dude, who contemplates the merits of condom recycling on Chilled Coughpee. At a little over 2 minutes its more interlude than actual song, and that fact helps prevent the outrageous imagery from becoming overkill (I never cooked coke on the stove top/But Im stuffing these nuts up in the guts of a slut no doubt/But its trapped inside a rubber/Should I flush that hoe out to use again?). The airy production of Address works well with Curren$ys delivery. The track feels like a smoky club nightcap set to music, complete with Spitta crafting the scene ( In the building now Im on the roof chilling/The pool up here/Couple chicks I grew up with/Bottles in the cooler if you dont know how to do it homie Ill school ya ).
What will hurt Pilot Talk for some is the fact that close to half the album was heard beforehand through leaks or appearances on older projects. But the project shows good progression for Curren$y. Hes eliminated the filler issue that bogged down This Aint a Mixtape, and doesnt have the by the numbers feel of Jet Files. While there arent big sonic moments as heard on Smokee Robinson, Pilot Talk is a much more consistent listen that wont have you skipping around for stronger tracks. Spitta is never going to marvel listeners with the diversity or complexity of his lyrics and themes, but he is a rare emcee in these times who actually honestly rhymes about his lifestyle (which for now, consists heavily of women and weed). His hardcore fans would have it no other way, and with Pilot Talk he has an accessible project that even casual listeners can appreciate.
Ismael AbduSalaam is a senior staff writer for AllHipHop.com and the creator of the Beats, Boxing and Mayhem, a website specializing in boxing and Hip-Hop coverage.