Curren$y – Pilot Talk IV: Review

Say what you will about Curren$y and his musical output, but the credibility from his consistency has allowed him to immerse himself in the universal hip-hop sphere, easily acquiring great producers, like Harry Fraud and The Alchemist, for his projects. It continued to show throughout 2021, as he dropped six projects – ending on Christmas Eve with the fourth installment of his acclaimed Pilot Talk albums. Unlike past Pilot Talks, the fourth is produced entirely by Ski Beatz, producer of illustrious tracks like Jay-Z’s “Dead Presidents” and past tapes. His production is on full display while riding a vibe that gives Curren$y a level stage to deliver solid tracks buoying on his lyricism. 

Pilot Talk IV is jazzier than most of Curren$y’s projects this year; it adds definition to the percussion with luminous and lax vibes, along with the array of layers from the horn and wind sections makes the album a smooth flight from start to finish. It emboldens its cultural influences, which derive from prominent music in Louisianna – particularly, NOLA. Though, I’m not here to proclaim Pilot Talk IV is some immaculate album, as it still bleeds the typical Curren$y-Andretti colloquialisms and poor choruses. We hear it prominently in his intros, which lack energy, unlike his tracks that switch fluidly between intricate flex raps and introspective-musicality. The same goes for the integrations of the instruments and style that come from Ski Beatz. Ultimately, what we receive is better than an average Curren$y album. 

After opening with two wind-centric beats, Ski Beatz reinvigorates the boom-bap style and adds that stoner touch to the BPM on “Non Fungible.” Curren$y plays on NFTs, turning his flexing to slight cautionary tales as he looks at the value of things in short. Like NFTs, there is a niche sense of serotonin due to the originality, but it’s only short-sighted. Curren$y raps: “We did the money dance in the Bentley store/I got an eye for the hundreds and a fast car/A passport, an ounce full of killer in the bag/We mad smart, showed up hella high/Dress sharp, front row, game four at the playoffs/Money in the bank ain’t safe at all/Money in the bank any day could be lost.” Though he notes that banking isn’t safe, he shows us how the glitz and glamour can swing by swiftly before reminding us of the tried and true shoebox system – storing money in a shoebox under the bed.

The transitions are seamless, even as it goes from an overly jazzy-brass core in “The Scene” to the soulful-percussion centric “Memory Lane,” which sees Curren$y reminding his listeners and fans of his purpose for this musical production – think 2016 when he dropped a mixtape every month for a whole year. Curren$y wants us to eat, and “Memory Lane” makes that known as he raps: “Uh, them niggas couldn’t afford a floormat in my car/’Cause they don’t work this hard/I didn’t get in this shit to be a star/I got in to start a war/And show my loved ones how to live large.” Curren$y is an artist who sticks to his guns, even when most tracks don’t land with the flair, but it camouflages itself to allow for one seamless listen without skipping a beat. It’s predominantly the case here, with a few decisions leaving me bewildered.

One decision came on the second track, “AD6,” featuring Jay Electronica. There are no qualms with the feature outside of how it sounds. It isn’t the first time they did a track together, previously joining forces on the first Pilot Talk. However, on IV, Jay’s verse sounds like it came from a phone and is barely polished to make it sound clearer. It sounds like a right swipe to get it flowing for a release date, but it doesn’t completely take you away because the verse isn’t poor. Jay Electronica understood the assignment, and Curren$y matches him bar-for-bar. It’s not a knock against Curren$y, but Jay Electronica can take things in peculiar but pertinent directions, elevating his lyricism to a higher plateau than Curren$y. Jay Elec raps: “From Tchoupitoulas to Napoleon, Desire, North Miro/Me and Spitta spit a flame of magic that’s uncontested/Jet Life, Roc Nation, can see the planes, it’s so majestic,” reflecting on the strength of their collaborations as two real MCs from New Orleans – note the people he mentions.

Throughout Pilot Talk IV, you’ll continue to find its footing because it doesn’t steer away from a Curren$y album, or project, checklist. It has a breezy stoner coating on intricate and luminous production, keeping us flowing from start to finish. It’s to Ski Beatz’s credit, as he never fails to impress, even when it takes a minimalist approach on “Workers and Bosses.” It translates well with the final track, “Finger Roll,” which flourishes with a back-spotlight on the electric guitar, allowing it to feel fresh with Curren$y adding that essence of unity by flexing and smoking with his homies.

Pilot Talk IV ends a great year for Curren$y, even when it’s just placed upon a pile of a plethora of albums/mixtapes/EPs that stay in constant rotation. You can claim that it can get repetitive but at times, you break apart the complexities between his music, his fan base, and his consistent stylistic choices that keep him on a plane all his own.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Curren$y – Still Stoned On Ocean: Review

Over the past month, hip-hop has remained predominantly dry — there have been two great albums and others that teeter between good and dull. Unfortunately, a lot of the dryness has come from big-name artists who delivered mediocrity since the end of August. From Drake’s Certified Lover Boy to Meek Mill’s Expensive Pain, the onslaught has left my brain feeling numb from empty verses with poor executions. And sometimes, you want to kick back and relax to music that embodies relaxing moods. So for the tokers, Curren$y has released his 12th LP, Still Stoned On Ocean, a follow-up to the 2016’s Stoned On Ocean — he delivers an elegant blend of witty-introspective raps on production, sounding like the producers were making them beachside. Still Stoned On Ocean is what some rap fans may need as a break from big releases.

A release by Curren$y is extra value in their musical wallet. Curren$y is consistent, with every project delivering at worst four to five new songs to add an ever-growing discography, specifically when he works with a producer. It isn’t always the case, as one could have someone specific mixing the project. Still Stoned On Ocean is mixed by Dre, half of Miami Hip-Hop producers Cool & Dre, giving the project a needed gloss — transporting us to a calm area. Despite Curren$y’s reflective nature, he takes you to cloud 9 with dreamy production and kick-back flows. As it repeats, you’re taking in the lyrics and the simple-elevated meaning behind them. Though the subject matter is the least of Curren$y’s worries, he makes sure the rhymes stay tight and letting Dre take control.

Dre mixes Still Stoned On Ocean to act like one consecutive sequence without an inherent 1-3 second pause in-between songs. To Curren$y’s credit, years of releasing and improving this craft have made consistency feel like a natural talent. And like I’ve mentioned in my review of Hitler Wears Hermes 8 B Sides, the DJ/Mixtape dynamic excels when traction arises from a series, letting the DJ give the songs a fluidity from start to finish. Curren$y is no stranger as Still Stoned On Oceans improves the production value. Dre’s polishes off a different set of layers, making sounds feel like the hip-hop equivalent of listening to the beach through a conch shell.

From “Game Tape 2” to “Brian De Palma,” Curren$y and Dre approach the transitions carefully. The cohesion entrances you through a systematic wavelength of calmness and heightened elevation, especially for the stoners. Handled by a few producers like 808-Ray and Smitty Beatz, the production contains that southern Miami feeling — wind blowing in your face on a 72 Degree day, as your blunt or joint simmers down, and the twinkly pianos and smooth production that envelops your relaxing moods. 

Other times, it delivers a blend of melodic instrumental layers underneath film samples that emboldens the context. And throughout most of this project, Curren$y is reflective of his life and rapping like he is high in the clouds. The two features levy similar energy, giving Curren$y something to work off of, like Jim Jones, in the song “The Beach.” Their flows take you sky high, almost forgetting Curren$y and later, Fendi P, are rapping fluidly over the production. It’s an album that works on many levels, especially for the chill-out zone. It’s rare for a project to give a consistent vibe while hitting hard at various moments, which Curren$y does as Still Stoned On Oceans comes to a close.

Unfortunately, like most Curren$y projects, the choruses miss more than they hit, and despite continuing on Still Stoned On Oceans, it isn’t much of a detriment to on here as it breezes by swiftly. There are few times where it doesn’t escape you, like on “The One,” which is a repetition of the phrase “you’re the one,” before reaching the final verse, hollowed in laziness. And as much as Spitta Andretti tries, his focus is on his verses. A few choruses take you back like on “Brian De Palma,” where he spits “Like Brian De Palma wrote it/Notable poet who The Source never once quoted.” It leaves you in thought, even if it’s simple.

For fans of Curren$y, he delivers one of the best projects — from him — this year. Throughout the year, the projects felt a bit short-sighted, except for the production. That is the beauty behind Still Stoned On Oceans, despite some minor problems. The production buoys elegant consistency polished from the mixing from Dre — you’ll find something to kick back on this new LP.

Rating: 7 out of 10.