Shante "Curren$y" Franklin has been on the verge of stardom for a long time. The New Orleans native started at Mr. Marcelo's Tuff Guy Entertainment, but the imprint's business partner was murdered in 2001. C-Murder stepped in to sign him to TRU Records, but they locked the CEO up in 2003 after he was found guilty of second-degree murder. Master P was up next signing him to No Limit, but no album was ever released. Then he linked with Lil Wayne, just as the rapper was beginning his ascent to "Best Rapper Alive" status, and became one of the centerpieces for the Young Money dynasty, even scoring a minor hit in 2006 with "Where Da Cash At." Unfortunately, once again, no album was ever released. Finally, in December of 2007, Curren$y went independent, putting together a string of worthy mixtapes such as Life At 30,000 Feet and Independence Day, landing on XXL's 2008 "Freshman" cover.

Now with two digital albums (This Ain't No Mixtape and Jet Files) under his belt, Hot Spitta has linked up with Dame Dash and Def Jam to drop his major-label debut, Pilot Talk (click here for our track-by-track breakdown). Complex got the leader of the JETS Gang to talk about linking his journey, working with Rick Ross, and why his good friend Wiz Khalifa wasn't on his album.

LISTEN: Curren$y Songs You Should Know...

"King Kong" (2010)

"Super High" (Sativa Remix) Rick Ross f/ Curren$y & Wiz Khalifa (2009)

"Car Service" f/ Wiz Khalifa (2009)

"Where Da Cash At" f/ Lil Wayne and Remy Ma (2006)

Interview By Dominic Green

Complex: Your previous album, This Ain't No Mixtape, had a lot of futuristic sounds courtesy of Monstabeatz. Ski Beatz has produced most of Pilot Talk, and he seems to use more live instruments. Do you prefer that?

Curren$y: Actually the music was recorded the normal way, and then it was played over. The band was brought in after i had already made that stuff. I was going to release it like a regular studio album, but once i had to push it back, I was like, "I gotta do somethin' to switch it up" because I had already shot videos for "Prioritize" and "Breakfast," so everybody had heard them; I wanted to make sure they had new shit without pushin' the album back again.

Complex: When you are on stage, do you enjoy performing with a live band?

Curren$y: Yeah, I must say I do. I feel like I give more of a performance because I feel the music.

Complex: So how did you and Dame Dash actually link up?

Curren$y: He called me because someone he knew had my number and he had asked his nephew and his son who he should fuck with if he was gonna try and make a comeback in this music shit, and they told him to try and find me. While they were telling him that, someone in the room just happened to have my number and he called me and told me he was working on the Blakroc project and I came out to check that shit out and get on Blakroc 2—and just from gettin' on Blakroc 2, we formed a friendship and it's been straight since.

Complex: A lot of people were surprised to see you sporting the Roc-A-Fella chain. Whose idea was that?

Curren$y: That was a collective idea. I know a lot of people were wondering what that was about when he gave me that chain. I was runnin' with the chain because I didn't want nobody to forget what he had done as far as what people remember when you say that name: what you associate with it and all the good that went with it. To not forget what my dude did and not write him out of his place in history because they tried to fuckin' murder him in every book and magazine you picked up for the past two or three years. It's more of a feeling than an idea because the label is BlueRoc and JETS International.

Complex: So there was a bit of confusion then when people heard the album would be released through Roc-A-Fella and Def Jam.

Curren$y: Yeah, It's BlueRoc.

Complex: But it's still being distributed by Def Jam.

Curren$y: Yeah, we got a P and D [pressing and distribution] deal.

Complex: Has Def Jam tried to switch your music up or suggest you to do this song rather than that one?

Curren$y: Not at all, and that's the beauty of this. Everybody already understands what my aspect on things are so nobody would have done business with me if they didn't, because it would have been an uphill battle to get me to do anything. [Laughs.] As soon as you suggest somethin' to me, I can't do it, like, immediately. As soon as you think I should do somethin', that's exactly what I can't do. But everyone trusts everyone's judgment.

Complex: When I got the press release for Pilot Talk, I noticed the tracklist included songs with Wiz Khalifa, but those tracks didn't make it on the album.

Curren$y: Well, you know how that go with deals and clearances. I just couldn't get my man cleared in time. I don't know what the deal was, but I couldn't put those records out. I knew eventually somebody was gonna ask me what happened and why I don't have him on my album, but that's just a part of the game. That's why I am the way I am, just on my own grind 'cause I don't really understand how that work and why my dude couldn't get on. I dunno. It's that business shit.

Complex: But you both did get on that "Super High (Sativa Remix)" though. How did you guys link up with Rick Ross for that one?

Curren$y: Through Twitter, man. You know me and Wiz are on that twitter so Ross hit us both on that cool, "come fuck with me, let's do this 'Super High' remix." We flew out there, smoked like three Os [ounces], and just did that shit.

Complex: You're gaining a lot of new listeners, but many don't really know your history and how you came up in the game. Can you talk about your path and how you got to where you are now?

Curren$y: As soon as I decided that I was gonna take music half-way serious, Marcelo [Mr. Marcelo], that's my brotha, he didn't have that No Limit deal yet. Him and his homeboy Doe Doe was putting together Tuff Guy Entertainment and through that, they did a partnership with No Limit because they was friends from just being from the Uptown projects and they put Marcelo's album out. So Marcelo was setting his shit up for Tuff Guy Entertainment and that's when I came on like, "Okay, I'ma start doin' this rap shit." Doe Doe got murdered in like August of '01; after that, C-Murder called and was like, "Yo, I'm doin' this TRU Records shit. You can come over here and put some work in." So I went through and started to puttin' music down and I was about to put an album out and then that situation he caught came through and that was unfortunate. So P [Master P] stepped in and was like "Come to Houston and start puttin' some tracks down and we will be able to get your situation straight." So I went there and did that for a few years and realized the schedule wasn't how I wanted it to be.

Complex: What year was it that you decided it wasn't working?

Curren$y: That was like '04. I was there for a second. Then I just dipped and decided to do my indie shit and that's when i bumped into Wayne at this talent shit in New Orleans.

Complex: Before that you never knew Lil Wayne?

Curren$y: I mean, we knew each other from just being in the city and on the same sets and shit like that, but we ain't never really had no full conversation. But we chopped it up at the talent show and then I went down to Miami and put some records down and I did that for a few years. Until I realized the same thing: that it wasn't a good fit.

Complex: How is your relationship with Lil Wayne at this point?

Curren$y: There isn't one. I haven't spoken to him in roughly two years.

Complex: Could there be a situation where you two can get back together to make some music?

Curren$y: I mean, I'm just chillin', and we both just doin' what we doin'. Ain't no love lost but for right now it's JET life.

Complex: You just mentioned JET Life, where did that slogan Just Enjoy This Shit come from?

Curren$y: Just the shit I done gone through and seen what people have gone through, I realized that at the end of the day, the time that we got, we're stuck here and there is nothing you can really do unless you gonna check yourself out. Unless you gonna kill yourself, in the meantime just enjoy this shit. Nobody can really do shit to you. No hate, nothin' a sucka nigga can say will do anything to you, so you gotta say "fuck that" and keep doin' ya thing until it's over. So through all the shit I been through, I always maintained the same attitude because I always felt I was right.

Complex: And you feel the people who are also down with Jets like Trademark, Young Roddy, and Street Wiz really embrace that idea?

Curren$y: Hell yeah, and that's why there's only a few of us. Everybody feels the same way. Trademark is a real official dude. Just to have been through so much, and still be able to have a good time and play Playstation at the end of it all, is cool, and that's why I fuck with them. Now I'm gettin niggas out. Niggas in Tribeca. Street Wiz is in New Orleans right now. You know there's always that one. [Laughs.] But we love him to death.

Complex: You have come out with a lot of album art for your singles and they're always really well done, are you into art?

Curren$y: Yep, absolutely. There are a few pieces in Dame's gallery that I done put some change on. I really fuck with that. You know how I am with fashion, too, so it's pretty all on the same line.

Complex: And I'm sure when you're smokin', the art seems to look a little bit better.

Curren$y: [Laughs.]



Complex: What's the longest you've gone without smoking?

Curren$y: Whoa! One time I had strep throat so I ain't smoke for like four days, but that was in like 2008. It was a horrible time. But other than that, everything has been okay. I have not gone one fuckin' hour without smokin'. [Laughs.] Shit, not even a half-hour.

Complex: Damn, have you ever gone in the booth sober?

Curren$y: Yeah, a couple songs off that Independence Day mixtape when I had that strep throat. I recorded "Anti Club" and a few other songs, but I ain't miss a beat. I was just sweatin' my ass off in the booth.

Complex: Being in New York and in the industry I know you have seen a lot of people take it a little further when it comes to that drug shit, have you ever dabbled in anything other than some herbal?

Curren$y: Nah, I'm just chillin' man. I don't do drugs. It's out there, though. I have been out here and seen all that shit but I don't want no part of it. I mean, the parties are cool and cocaine is cool for some chicks, but I'm okay.

Complex: Yeah there wasn't too much of that at your album listening at DD172.

Curren$y: [Laughs.] Nah, not at all. You were there? You shoulda came and said wassup. We coulda smoked one.

Complex: Yeah, we could've, but I don't think Dame was too happy with us because we had our laptops out...

Curren$y: Nah dog, did he really do that? [Curren$y calls out to Dame Dash] Yo, Dame! [Back to us] Dude, I don't know if that happened. I read that and we was laughing because we don't think that happened.

Complex: A dude did approach us and said Dame was watching us on the cameras and he asked us if we were recording...

Curren$y: [Curren$y starts talking to Dame Dash] Remember this shit about the laptops and Complex said you were gonna sic the goons on 'em? That ain't happen, right? [Back to us] He said he'll send you the tapes. [Laughs.] He wants to know when it happened.

Complex: It wasn't Dame who ran up on us, it was some random guy...

Curren$y: Hold on...[Dame Dash gets on the phone]

Dame Dash: What's happenin', man?

Complex: What's good, Dame?

Dame Dash: You the dude that wrote that?

Complex: I was one of them, yeah.

Dame: You know it wasn't enough for me to address and it sounded amusing, but I said one day I will run into that guy and ask him what it was that he heard. What I'ma do is, I'ma send you guys the tape and expect you guys to watch it since y'all are stand-up guys and fix what you said that might not be true.

Complex: It wasn't you who approached us, but another person speaking for you.

Dame: Oh, okay, I might have read it wrong, but I'll still send the tapes. Cool? Here you go. [He gives the phone back to Curren$y]

Curren$y: Yeah, we didn't know about any goons but that was funny. Dame ain't say that shit. We have heard so much shit about this one dude who was there, some jerk, who was trying to talk to everybody. Eskay told me dude wouldn't even let him upstairs to holla at me so a couple people have told us about him. We don't know about that or who it was. Somebody was just clearly whylin'.

Complex: Well, now we know.

Curren$y: Yeah, just come back another time and we'll smoke one.

Complex: Will do.

RELATED: Album Preview: Curren$y's Pilot Talk