Review: Curren$y’s new mixtape features old friends, NOLA vibe

by Beckett Bathanti – sbathant@unca.edu – Sports Editor

Curren$y hails from the perpetually balmy city of New Orleans, so please forgive him for dropping a summer soundtrack about three months early.

New Jet City, released on Super Bowl Sunday, is a pretty typical Curren$y mixtape in a lot of ways. There are plenty of half-awake threats, good-natured shit-talk, and there is also a whole lot of weed.

There is nothing wrong with a Curren$y tape that sounds a lot like the last Curren$y tape. In fact, recreating the same hazy, slinky atmosphere and selling it sincerely each time shows Curren$y’s greatest strength.

That atmosphere existing almost entirely outside the billboard charts has never seemed to phase him.

If anything, New Jet City  holds evidence of a compromise that Curren$y’s output rarely possesses. His mixtapes and album tend to be unrelentingly smoked-out, devoid of very much forward energy.

On New Jet City, Curren$y finally gravitates toward a slightly edgier, radio-friendly sound, but one that feels just as effortless as his other work.

A good mix of his signature bleariness and clearer, brasher instrumentals makes this one of his most enjoyable front-to-back listens.

Curren$y inching toward a more mainstream sound allows for several positive changes.

First, higher profile guests limit the number of times Curren$y’s hack friends can show up.

Young Roddy and Trademark da Skydiver make up the other two-thirds of Curren$y’s Jet Life collective, but tend to be utterly forgettable.

So instead of them getting three features each on the album like they usually would, Young Roddy only appears twice and Trademark da Skydiver is limited to one brief, mercifully decent verse on “Coolie in the Cut.”

In the place of his flunkies, we get heavyweights like Rick Ross, Wiz Khalifa and Lloyd, up and coming buzz bros like French Montana and Trinidad James, along with veteran feature-whores like Jadakiss and Styles P.

Surprisingly, the best guest verse comes courtesy of Juvenile, who shows up on the Juicy J-sampling, “Bitch Get Up.” The 36-year-old fellow New Orleans native is rejuvenated and as dexterous as ever as he sing-raps over a springy, funky beat. He sounds pretty overjoyed to be rapping and has a confidence that has been missing from his solo work for a long time.

Wiz Khalifa’s verse also stands out. That may be the first time that sentence has ever been written. He just sounds so ripped and pleased with himself as he raps, “’raris, ‘raris, ‘raris, Lamborghini, Hari-kari/ Suicide doors, tell the owner I said sorry,” on the excellent “Choosin,” that his enthusiasm rubs off on the listener. The weed-fueled infectiousness of the track hearkens back to Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y’s nearly perfect collaborative album, How Fly.

Trinidad James, for his part, seems bent on derailing his own inexplicable popularity, delivering yet another smug, but clunky verses.

New Jet City also benefits from rap’s current love affair with pummeling, epic trap beats. Curren$y is great at living in a lush, quiet sonic environment, but sometimes he can fall too deeply into them, almost disappearing in his own secondary smoke. 2012’s Priest Andretti fell victim to an uber-chill paralysis New Jet City avoids.

Banging tracks like “Coolie in the Cut,” “Choosin,” and “Bitch Get Up” offset the molasses of “Living in the City” and “Three 60.” French Montana contributes toward the overall wooziness of the project with his usual wasted Kid Cudi warble.

It is yet to be seen if Curren$y’s 2013 will be as prolific as 2012, which saw him release eight projects, but New Jet City is certainly not a bad way to kick it off.

 

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