Curren$y: The Stoned Immaculate

Curren$y goes high definition and big spender on his second major label album, enlisting a number of the hottest producers to create one of the year's most luxurious listens. But at what cost?


The Stoned Immaculate

Label: Jet Life
US Release Date: 2012-06-05
UK Release Date: 2012-06-05

For the past four years and change, Curren$y has been spearheading the internet-fueled, southern rap as inspired by '90s boom-bap jazz and turn of the millenium Roc-A-Fella elegance. It's a sound that had a heavy influence on Wiz Khalifa's most well-received efforts and turned Rick Ross's Maybach Music Group into something like a gangster-rap mecca. While Curren$y's move into the big leagues has been marked with caution, a deliberate move with memories of his days at Cash Money and No Limit still fresh in his memory, it's been hard to ignore his influence on the hypemakers.

But in 2011 the rapper who "refused the majors and stayed real / [he] kept [his] promise" finally followed in his sonic peers' footsteps, bringing his Jet Life Records imprint into the Warners' fold much as Wiz's Taylor Gang and Ross' MMGs had done previously. Weekend at Burnie's marked Curren$y's test run with the world of major labels, a moderately successful release that saw the rapper curtail none of what made him viable economically while also balking slightly in terms of continued artistic growth.

What The Stoned Immaculate threatens to represent, then, is Curren$y's stoic adherence to the principles that Warner Bros. thinks sell records, as well as a considerable boon in personal finances. There are the interpromotional tracks one would expect, from Wale and Wiz Khalifa to the resurgent 2 Chainz and Daz Dillinger. Curren$y finally gets to work with one of his heroes, Pharrell, and resolutely professional vocal hooks are provided by Marsha Ambrosious and Estelle. Being an artist whose projects generally only involve those closest to him, the reliance on name value alone is a major label shift for Curren$y that instantly alters the feel of his work.

In fact, Wale opens the album with "What It Look Like", and with the Bink! beat swirling around the room like a cousin of Ross's majestic "Maybach Music" trilogy, it's hard not to wonder if we're listening to a track that missed the cut on Wale's Ambition. Those two vocal hooks are mostly new territory for Spitta as well, who's been one of the increasingly rare artists to remain in favor of the rapped hook lately -- even if he has to borrow it from the verses of someone like Snoop Dogg or Big Boi ("Prioritize") to make sure it sticks.

But the sonic differences are just those -- differences. What the enlisted producers such as Rashad, Monster Beatz, Daz Dillinger, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Big K.R.I.T., the Innovatorz and more have brought to the table here is a truly ambitious take on the marble-floored, velour-draped soundscapes Warner artists have been cultivating over the past few years. Monster Beatz' "Sunroof", for example, is built on the same Arthur Verocai track that made Ludacris' "Do the Right Thing" feel so triumphant, but here it's crashing through a variety of filters and additional instrumentation that makes the sample feel widescreen, a small piece of a much bigger puzzle.

But this also means these decisions that bear the burden of being ambitious; you might love the God of War sampling "No Squares" but I'm decidedly uninterested in its false intimidation mode. I've never seen Curren$y or Wiz Khalifa as wielders of the Blades of Chaos, and that track does little to adjust that feeling. The tracks that are firmly in his lane but experimental enough to feel different that really work: "Sunroof", with that wild Arthur Verocai interpolation, "Showroom", "Capitol", "Jet Life". It's the first verse of "Chasin' Paper" that a veteran Curren$y listener would expect more of here, but for once it's rare the songs truly ignite without a hot beat to support them. Thankfully, that's most everything here.

Working against Curren$y's favor on some of these other tracks -- even "Showroom" -- is his adherence to a more basic, regimental flow that does not feel as nuanced as the numerous free projects he's been blessing us with since 2007. As his beat options have expanded more and more, the guy seems to have rejected the notion he might need to try something new, and his (intentional) lack of energy just feels lost against his Jet Life homies, or Wiz and 2 Chainz. His on-paper lyricism also slips a bit, rehashing topics those of us who've been paying close attention have heard plenty of times while relinquishing subtly complex metaphors in favor of explicitly straight forward storytelling raps. If it were about more than money and fucking other guys' girlfriends it'd be one thing, but being that he's described both subjects in much finer detail for years now, it's certainly a bummer that Stoned Immaculate is an album content to spell things out.

Interestingly, the bonus tracks spread across iTunes, Spotify and a personal code located in the liner notes are more in line with the tracks on the album proper that succeed, lending to an odd sense of "maybe this album isn't the album" that seems to corrupt many a major label release these days. Once you've found rips of them all, you know, a personalized playlist may not be the worst idea. Truly, the most awkward moment listening to this album is when you come across "J.L.R." and "One More Time" (not to mention the "water balloon bomb threats" on "Audio Dope III") on iTunes and realize just a year ago the whole album might have sounded like that. Maybe you should have just waited for the next mixtape? Only in hip-hop is this relationship between money and product so awkward.

Stoned Immaculate is one of those hip-hop albums that's very hard to grade. On the one hand, it's an artist who's been making exceptionally enjoyable music for half a decade finally getting a label deal and celebrating his success. But it's also something that feels so different from his past catalog -- in a generic, slightly unexciting way -- that it's hard to celebrate as a listener. There are keen verses here, and the production generally deserves more than praise, but as a total package the most exciting pieces have nothing to do with the artist credited on the cover art.

For a guy who's made so much of his success on the taste of his ears and tongue, it's a strange experience. Put this in your car and use some drugs to it, but be wary of more cautious listening experiences. They may not yield the high you're after. Perhaps I'm a little underwhelmed due to some form of overexposure, but I'm not sure Stoned Illmaculate can sell itself to newcomers the way either of the Pilot Talk albums could. Or to old-timers, either. It's that odd limbo album, trapped between expectations and achievement. A victory lap with few bouquets or decorative stuffed fauna. All haze.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.