Curren$y is in a very odd place in hip-hop, one that I’m not sure has ever existed before. Since 2008 the Young Money castaway has been entrepreneurial in ways few other rappers can claim. What began as artistic catharsis after a duo of limited roles as Lil’ Wayne’s undersold wingman and No Limit solider, his string of eight mixtapes in eight months revealed Curren$y to be equally inspired by wildly different music than the gangster rap tunes (most of the world would remember him for “Where da Cash At?”, his semi-monolithic debut single from Dedication 2, if they were trying to remember him) he’d been a part of before. His already moderate studio machismo gradually faded into a much camer sense of aggression. While he’d still get one over on you by stealing your girl from the party, Curren$y became a lot more interested in telling us how much his view of life feels like getting over in general.
If Curren$y’s been on your radar since the Pilot Talk projects cast the brightest light on his career to date, you may have become aware by now that Curren$y’s not necessarily limited in his content but he’s definitely finely focused thematically. These songs are about the same failed relationships, casual relationships, vehicular supremacy, snack food, rap quotes and drug references Curren$y’s been telling us about for years and years. The strange thing is, as the many fans and writers who’ve been keeping up with the guy for five-plus years let alone a decade can attest, it’s quite notable how Curren$y’s managed to make it work so well for him - as a small business and as an artistic endeavor - considering he’s barely slowed down since feuding with Terry Kennedy, linking up with Dame Dash and pioneering a sound that dominates the mixtape scene today. Allowing for some duplicates across releases and random floaters missing from basic tracklists, the man’s released about twelve hours of music across eighteen albums and EPs in just three years.
Take “Bitch Get Up”, a sneaky track-of-the-summer contender that probably came to early to put up a real fight. Produced by June James, a hired gun from Houston whose profile’s undoubtedly improved after this, and featuring a refreshingly jumpy-yet-melodic Juvenile, “Bitch Get Up” is a strange number that shifts from Curren$y’s Goldie pimpin’ to a pre-crunk kind of Memphis bounce (lifted from Juicy J on “Errday”) to Juvenile’s straight up MTV Spring Break track closer. The song wasn’t too impressive my first few days with the album, but very quickly I’ve just been getting more and more excited for the chorus and Juvenile to take over. “Purple Haze” is another song with a surprising and strange sing-songy guest verse, as Trinidad Jame$ appears out of nowhere to say a whole lot of nothing and sound like the kingdom’s best jester as he does it.
Thelonious Martin gets the most billings on the production end, a subject important with any Curren$y album both because of the aforementioned microscopic focus on a few pat subjects and because his choice in production has remained pretty damn on top of things. His past few releases have felt a little more major label than longtime fans may have been accustomed to and New Jet City is no different, he just has a knack for finding top of the crop examples of what’s hot. And when he goes out of bounds, like Martin’s “Living for the City” and “Moe Chettah”, the results are typically revelatory - here, you’re curious how game Freddie Gibbs and Madlib would be to add Curren$y as a Ghostface-like foil. “Clear” is a look at Curren$y in a more rugged, overcast atmosphere that suits his guest Jadakiss better, but Statik Selektah’s region-neutral boom bap is just right for Curren$y to get by on verse IQ.
Having listened to and heard so much Curren$y music in just half a decade, it’s easy to be tempted into being fatigued by his act. So it’s really with a lot of great enthusiasm that I say this is probably the album that fans and newcomers who were disappointed by The Stoned Immaculate were expecting. It’s a little more defiantly, sneakily accessible than his music’s been lately, feeling just the right amount of left of center to sound unique without sounding strange. Curren$y tackles, essentially, a revue of every sound that’s killing it right now in rap music and weaves his patented moves through them all like Kentucky John Wall. It’s a tough one to nail down with a number due to how fresh his subject matter may hit people’s ears depending on familiarity, but anyone should feel pretty delighted to get this one, I’d say.