February 3, 2011

My Gut Reaction: Curren$y - Pilot Talk II (November 22, 2010)

Although I wasn't aware that there was even a competition, the artist currently known as, um,  Curren$y was working toward earning the award for Most Prolific Stoner on 2010, recording enough tracks for his critically acclaimed Ski Beatz-produced Pilot Talk to fill at least two, if not three, separate albums.  (Also in the running: Seth Rogen, Drew Barrymore, Snoop Dogg, and the staff at the Taco Bell around the corner from my house.)  Because Curren$y had a buzz around him for the majority of last year, it wasn't surprising to see that his follow-up, Pilot Talk II, was scheduled to drop in the same year as its predecessor.  (It was delayed a month from its original release date, but unlike other artists with major label distribution, Pilot Talk II actually did hit store shelves, so score one for the little guy.)

Pilot Talk II follows a similar recipe as the first volume: thirteen tracks primarily produced by Ski Beatz (who was hot off of the success of his 24 Hour Karate School project at this point), with a few handouts given to the same outside producers (Monsta Beatz, Nesby Phips) as before.  (A producer named Drupey, who I haven't heard of either, subs in for Mos Def, who decidedly had nothing to do with this project.)  However, Ski must have figured that Spitta's audience was familiar enough of the man's style (both vocally and subject matter-wise) to entrust him with acting as the star attraction on his own shit, so this time around, the big name guest stars are limited to a single contribution: Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon appears on a remix to "Michael Knight", Pilot Talk II's first single, and the mere fact that the track is a remix means that it shouldn't even really be considered a part of the main program, which says a lot about Ski's confidence in Curren$y's abilities.

Does any of this shit matter, though?  Is Pilot Talk II a rushed product that could have used a longer lead time for proper marinating?  Or is Curren$y really that great of an artist that everything he touches turns to gold (or its 2010 music industry equivalent, one hundred thousand copies sold)?

I don't know; I haven't listened to the fucking thing yet.  But apparently Warner Bros. seems to think so, as they have just now become Curren$y's newest label home.  And to think that all it took was a blog post on HHID to elevate his situation.  I have to go pat myself on the back now: I'll be right back.

Although he hasn't really given the audience a chance to forget who he is yet, Pilot Talk II kicks off with an effective reintroduction to Curren$y. Once again sidestepping the rap album intro requirement, Shante spits a one-verse wonder that only falters toward the end, when he starts repeating his lines as though he were Mike Jones. (Remember him?) Ski's beat (which is now credited to 'Ski Beatz & The Senseis', which probably just means he is now outsourcing his work like Dr. Dre, Timbaland, and Kanye West before him) sounds simple enough, but it sneaks up on you, tricking you into looking forward to the change-ups every four bars, and Spitta bobs and weaves in the midst of it all. This wasn't bad at all.

I enjoyed Ski's instrumental immensely, so I couldn't understand why Shante thought it would be acceptable to ruin it with such a shitty “chorus” after both of his (admittedly interesting) verses. The music reaches dramatic heights (especially toward the end) that Spitta is unable to match, so it's almost as though he uses the “hook” (which is just him repeating the name of the song, which has fuck-all to do with Knight Rider, over and over again, right up until you want to strangle him, at which point he suddenly cuts himself off) to bring it back down to earth. Oh well. This could have been so much more.

Shante's stream-of-consciousness rhymed lead him to all sorts of fascinating places, but this Ski beat keeps him grounded enough to still connect with the listener. Over what sounds like a 24 Hour Karate School reject, Spitta, um, spits a one-verse wonder that matches the music's intensity, once again only faltering toward the end, where he feels that he has to repeat his last few bars for added emphasis. Why he won't just trust his judgment that his audience will understand what he means, I will never know. Regardless, this still worked much better than “Michael Knight”.

Curren$y has to do a lot of verbal acrobatics in order to coerce the listener into enjoying this Monsta Beatz instrumental, which takes at stab at being obnoxious at first, before coming around to the right side of entertaining. As per the usual, Shante lets his mind wander to whatever interests him at the moment, but not since the first section of William Faulkner's The Sound & The Fury has a stream-of-consciousness style been so endearing. (I'm joking: I fucking hate the first section of The Sound & The Fury. I appreciated what Faulkner was trying to do, but actually reading the fucking thing made me want to slit my wrists with the edges of the pages. Sue me. I liked the rest of the book. And I enjoyed Spitta's two verses on here.)

Our host's trusty weed carriers, last seen on the first installment's “Roasted” (which is still a fucking great track), return for another posse cut, this time with mixed results. The verses all sound technically proficient (in that none of these rappers come across as outright awful), but Ski's instrumental is a bit too adult contemporary for anybody to get into properly, and the framing device used throughout (as informed by the title, a flight attendant debriefs passengers in the usual manner that you will be familiar with if you've ever been on a plane or watched Airplane!) annoyed me because, save for a couple of choice lines (the seat belt thing made me laugh), she plays it completely straight. It's a rap song, people: don't be afraid to take the absurd path every once in a while.

6. A GEE
This song didn't really work for me. Ski's beat sounds alright, as he fucked with his drum machine often enough to shake the audience out of complacency. And Curren$y's second verse runs laps around his first one: perhaps he needed to burn off some random thoughts before he could truly focus on what he was writing. But the two components of the track never meet halfway: “A Gee” (which is a terrible title, by the way) can't help but sound like two entirely different songs being played at the exact same time, and that only hurts its overall prospects.

This song bored the shit out of me. That's all I got.

Somewhere within this moody R&B track, which trades in hip hop sensibilities for a failed crossover attempt in the guise of crooner McKenzie Eddy (the actual owner of this track, as it appears on her own project in an extended form also featuring a verse from the other rookie hip hop stoner Wiz Khalifa, whose rise in fame would only make this song even more mainstream), is a verse from our host, but I could be mistaken: the Ski/Senseis piano-laced beat put me to sleep, and the next thing I knew, I woke up in a house with a mysteriously long and narrow hallway leading from my bedroom directly into an abandoned classroom, where disturbing writing appeared and disappeared in random intervals while I was being stared at by my deceased grandfather: I didn't actually see him, but I knew he was there. Peering through the lone window, I noticed a mime juggling beach balls while chocolate coins fell from the green sky. No, this wasn't a dream: I'm still living this shit right now.

Since “Flight Briefing” sucked cock overall, Spitta's seat warmers make an encore appearance at the studio to give this whole “posse cut” thing another go. Sadly, this one doesn't work very well either. Although it is a bit more enjoyable than that previous effort: it sounds as though Curren$y and his boys rushed through the recording process just to make Pilot Talk II's deadline (which was pushed back anyway) and/or to finally get to that bag of kush that Shante bought yesterday that he had been bragging about that entire afternoon. I don't expect lightning in a bottle twice, but I do hope for good music, and that is not to be found anywhere on “Hold On”. These three covering the Wilson Phillips song of the same name would have been much more entertaining.

The Monsta beat is a study in contrasts: a glamorous melody (befitting of the “roll out the red carpet” phrasing from the hook) paired up with some fucking dusty drums, meshing together like peanut butter and chocolate. Spitta's two verses aren't great, or even that memorable, but they are serviceable, so “Fashionably Late” represents a step toward relevancy for Pilot Talk II, a land which our host hasn't visited since “Famous”. This wasn't terrible.

Thanks to recent advances in everyday vernacular, it has become increasingly difficult for people to come up with new euphemisms for smoking pot and its after-effects. Curren$y tries his damnedest to buck this trend, but fails miserably, unable to even come up with a unique way of saying that he's high right now. This shit was pretty awful, even without the shitty title. Spitta says it himself: “Some of my joints be tight, some of my joints be fucked up”. Yes, I know he's talking about actual joints, but that doesn't mean that the same logic can't be applied to his catalog. Pass. (Ha!)

Shante reunites with his former No Limit Records coworker Fiend for a thoroughly dull collaboration that, nevertheless, intrigued me, as Fiend sounds absolutely nothing like the guy I remember. Maybe his vocals have matured, like a fine whiskey or a geriatric prostitute, or maybe I'm not even remembering the same guy. Who knows? (Well, you two will, since it's pretty easy to research Fiend's earlier work.) The guest outshines his host over an instrumental that isn't Curren$y's forté. Are we almost done here?

My understanding is that the original “Michael Knight” was the first single from Pilot Talk II, but given that shitty chorus, I can't imagine it doing very well. Regardless, a remix of that very song closes the album, but it's only a “remix” due to a technicality: it's the exact same motherfucking song, except now it has been extended a bit to fit in a third verse from Chef Raekwon, who sounds as sleepy as Spitta sounds stoned. The Ski instrumental is still pretty decent, although tacking on the extra verse doesn't allow the music to breathe on this version, but this track was still underwhelming. What a way to go.

THE LAST WORD: The promise showcased by Curren$y on Pilot Talk is only seen in brief spurts on this sequel project, which somehow explores the same subject matter but ends up sounding worse, as the music presented on Pilot Talk II is much less engrossing. It isn't technically bad, but most of the beats appear to have been crafted with an entirely different artist in mind, causing Curren$y to have to work double-time to appease the average hip hop head, and working double-time is nearly impossible to do when you're so highed up. (See? That shit doesn't flow well in a sentence.) Still, our host does what he can, and several of his verses, at least, on Pilot Talk II rival the best work on its predecessor, which is probably enough to satisfy his fans. Aside from “Airborne Aquarium” and “Montreux”, though, I wasn't entirely impressed. Hopefully the history books will show Pilot Talk II as the inferior second act in Curren$y's overall epic (as Pilot Talk III is apparently going to hit stores later this year). For now, you should just settle for the original recipe.




  1. I agree that PTII is the worse of the two, but I am also a bigger fan of both than you in general. I feel like I enjoyed Ski Beatz producing a lot more than you. I was totally blown away by the producing and how well it was matched with Curren$y. It seems like whoever Ski producers for, he knows what sounds to go for to get the most of of them. For example, I couldn't see Curren$y rhyming over some Camp Lo tracks.

    Flight Briefing is probably my favorite song on this album, and I was surprised you didn't like it too much considering that you love Roasted. I feel like all the guests performed just as well as before. I do agree with the literal flight briefing portions of the song not having enough fun with itself.

    I don't see why the Michael Knight "remix" didn't replace the original? It is the same thing plus a Rae verse...which seems like it would be a good thing even though I don't particularly enjoy that particular verse a ton.

    Also, his album with Warner Bros is titled Covert Coup (with The Alchemist), so that is pretty cool. Wouldn't mind that at all if it gives Ski the chance to get out more non-Curren$y work.

  2. The Faulker reference in this entry and the David Brent one in the Pilot Talk review made these reads worth it; the albums are both good, but nothing too special. Still cannot believe how much the Michael Knight hook ruins the song.

  3. Dude when are you gonna review Freddie Gibbs.Would love to hear your thoughts on him

  4. Pilot Talk II > Pilot Talk

    But take the best tracks from both & you have a great album.

  5. Nice work as always. Have you ever reviewed an album from an artist outside the US exceot DJ Honda BTW?

  6. I've reviewed a few (the 24 Hour Karate School Japan project jumps to mind, as does Prop Dylan), but some of the Reader Reviews take that idea even further.

  7. nikka slap yoself!!...you sound like you into Lil Wayne type of shit....go back to reviewing Drake or Rick.... All of these tracks are gold..

  8. I think it's fairly obvious to anyone who has read more than this one review on the site that no, I'm NOT "into Lil Wayne type of shit".