Pilot Talk 3
There is something invigorating about hearing a rapper who seems to enjoy fame. A quick glance at the roster of today’s biggest rap stars and you’ll find artist after artist engulfed in the cosmic misery of achieving an empty life of status, strippers, and the inability to cop a latte at Starbucks without being recognized. The terminal bleakness of the good life might be millennial rap’s signifying spirit, but it can be a little exhausting if you prefer your rap music to be about enjoying the spoils of fame. Thus, to hear a rapper simply appreciate being rich again can be revelatory for fans who are little tired of all the 808s and heartbreak.
Curren$y doesn’t lament a life of extravagance in his music. The New Orleans MC doesn’t bother to ponder if the size of his bank account will prevent true emotional connection or if fame traps the soul. Instead, he’s a rapper unafraid to simply celebrate his blessed existence. Why sulk when your life is built on roof top pool parties and marble floor hallways? “Don't apologize though, I ain't worried bout it/Knew I was iller than those niggas the whole time,” Curren$y barks triumphantly on “Life I Chose,” the ninth track on his euphoric, ennui-free new album, Pilot Talk 3.
As the third installment of Spitta’s aircraft-themed series, Pilot Talk 3 finds the NOLA sky captain delivering a familiar set of luxury rap fairytales upon which he’s built a quietly impressive career. The previous two entries into the series, both released in 2010, represented a breakthrough for Curren$y. After a partnership with Ca$h Money raised his profile but failed to make him a crossover star on par with Lil Wayne, Curren$y carved out an underground lane of successes with Pilot Talk and its sequel based on breezy beats and stoner charm. It's a winning formula that brought him continued success on a seemingly endless array of albums, mixtapes, and EPs that released over the next few years.
As with the two previous albums of the series, the music on Pilot Talk 3 is gorgeous with the bulk of the production handled by 1990s East Coast rap impresario Ski Beatz, best known for his work on Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt and Camp Lo’s Uptown Saturday Night. Ski brings a lush and detailed instrumentation to the album, utilizing jazz rhythms, horn sections, and the occasional flute to form the sonic backbone for Curren$y to ply his trade on. There are songs on the album like “Long As the Lord Say,” “Get Down,” and “Search Party” where the instrumentals are prominent while managing not to drown out Curren$y’s vocals in the production.
Curren$y’s songwriting has always been defiantly low stakes, reveling in familiar themes of wine, women, weed, and the occasional dalliance with mid-grade drug dealing as his primary obsessions. “Fight night, MGM, vaporizer blazing/Valet for the classics, trucks with armored glasses/Franchise players on a momentous occasion,” he raps on the Jadakiss-assisted “Pot Jar.” He’d rather expertly narrate the experience of being ringside for a Vegas boxing match than threaten you with a gun or idly ponder universal existentialism. He doesn’t necessarily need the critical credibility that might bring and so Curren$y has always seemed content to be hip-hop comfort food.
As a lyricist, Spitta has never been a particularly gifted technician—his flows often trail off and sometimes end arbitrarily mid-bar—and some might confuse his dogged adherence to his own musical formula as proof that he's a limited and unambitious artist. There is certainly some truth to those assertions, but they also slightly miss the point. Curren$y’s never been particularly ambitious in terms of the scope of his music: He’ll never attempt to make a record as overtly sprawling as Kendrick’s To Pimp a Butterfly or as nakedly commercial as your average Drake album. But that doesn't imply weakness. Curren$y’s ambition is in his consistency, the notion that you can deliver a product that satisfies your core fans each time out. It is with this idea that Pilot Talk 3 delivers what it promises: a rap album from a rapper who is unafraid to enjoy the life of a rapper.
B.J. Steiner is a writer living in New York. Follow him @DocZeus.