May 30, 2014

A Reader's Gut Reaction: Curren$y & The Alchemist - Covert Coup (April 20, 2011)

(Today's Reader Review is a Gut Reaction piece from Jay, who decided to find out what the big deal was surrounding the collaborative project between The Alchemist and Curren$y, Covert Coup, that a lot of you two seem to like. Leave your thoughts for him below.)

Disclaimer: Before starting this review, I must confess that I am a biased Alchemist fan. The man is, in my honest opinion, a god amongst producers, and remains my number one inspiration as a beatmaker myself. I swear that I won't allow that bias to creep into this review, though.

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right? But when life gives you ten-plus years in the hip hop business, unending critical acclaim, and an ever-growing fan base, the question is “What do I make now?” This was a question Alan Maman, better known as producer and sometimes-rapper The Alchemist, asked himself around 2011. But to provide the answer to it, we must first ask another question: “Who should I work with now?” At this point, there aren't a whole lot of people that Alan hasn't worked with: the man has swerved back and forth between the mainstream and underground lanes, with pretty much everyone from 50 Cent and Slaughterhouse to Guru (R.I.P.) and Saigon having all recorded with the Los Angeles-based craftsman, with varying degrees of success.

Alan decided to pull a fast one on us, bringing out the still-relatively unknown New Orleans-based stoner Curren$y (who has the work ethic of a fucking champion, completely obliterating that whole “lazy pothead” stereotype), and made a little album with him, which they called Covert Coup. They intended for it to hit actual store shelves, but decided at the last minute to give it to the fans for free.

I remember seeing countless critics praising Covert Coup, some even granting it the status of a modern-day classic (which is an oxymoron if I've ever heard one). So I had to find out for myself if it's actually any good.

1. BBS
And so it begins. Alan's beat is slow (a recurring theme) and pleasant. Curren$y lets off a couple of warm-up bars, but he keeps it short, so consider this a sort of an intro. A solid track.

Oh goody, goody, a Jailbird P feature! Albert comes through after a solid Curren$y verse (and a brief interlude in which he and Curren$y appear to be arguing or something), rewarding the audience by not sucking entirely. Alan's beat was pretty good, too, I suppose.

The first not-so-good track. The Alchemist's beat is repetitive, and Spitta Andretti isn't interesting enough to compensate for that. Meh. At least guest star Fiend (of No Limit Records and being Curren$y's friend fame) offers an excellent verse and hook, almost managing to save the day. Almost.

I like Smoke DZA; his contribution to “Power Ballad”, a track from Domo Genesis's No Idols (another project produced in full by The Alchemist), is also worth tracking down. Curren$y and DZA immediately click, because both of them live primarily in the “money, bitches, and weed” region of hip hop. Alan's loop makes them both sound good, too.

A lot of the tracks on Covert Coup are short, which is fine by me, since that means our hosts don't necessarily want to bore the listener to death when they can move to other ideas quickly. The music is decent, and Curren$y pumps a little more energy into his verse, after which he sits back and allows the beat to play. Nothing spectacular, but it works.

Alan's beat is spacey and bass-y, and complements both rappers well, with Gibbs faring a tad bit better than Spitta. No chorus, just like I love it. Easily the best track so far.

All the beats on Covert Coup carry a similar vibe, which would pose a problem if all of the songs were five-plus minutes of non-stop rapping, which is not the case. Yes, this is another song about smoking weed: given the co-headliner, this isn't surprising. Nothing special, but the brief runtime saves the track. Again.

8. DOUBLE 07
Curren$y plays James Bond on this Alchemist-produced film score. The excellence of this track cannot be overlooked: Alan's drums are bone-crushing, and his piano and rock guitar chops make it easy to imagine what Spitta would sound like with the musical backing of Deep Purple, or even Cream. Kills the last five tracks; there is no competition.

An interesting song title. Curren$y finally tones down the weed smoking, even though he still isn't rapping about anything interesting or substantial. And Alan's beat is, unsurprisingly, good.

Get it? “Full Metal” and Alchemist? No? Well, I'm obliged to say that as a hardcore Alchemist fan, who has heard a good ninety-five percent of the man's (released) material, I would easily place this beat in his top ten. It's incredible. This literally blew me away the first time I heard it. It will get stuck in your head for life. The slow-moving strings and skull-shattering bass and drums left me speechless. Oh, and Curren$y? Well, over a beat like this, he can't help but sound pretty damn good, even throwing a few Wu-Tang Clan and Belly references in the mix. From that fanboy-ish rant, I'm confident that you can figure out how I feel about this song.

THE LAST WORD: Overall, I liked Covert Coup. It's nice that The Alchemist and Curren$y were able to escape their respective comfort zones to get this out of their systems. I hope this is a series that continues, although some faster instrumentals and some rhymes that aren't smothered in weed smoke would be preferable. The songs that work do so perfectly, while the ones that don't grow old very quickly: thankfully, Covert Coup works far more often than not. For fans of both The Alchemist and Curren$y, finding this online should be a no-brainer. And even if you hate both artists, I insist that you track down “Full Metal” immediately. That is a song you must hear. Go ahead. I'll wait.)

- Jay

(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Let me know.  The Alchemist has also released the instrumentals from these sessions, although he's charging money for those, so if you're so inclined, I've included the Amazon link below.)


  1. Solid review, although I think I'm a much bigger fan of Spitta's rapping than the reviewer was. I do agree that "Full Metal" is mindblowing, the way Al flips the sample is masterful and the way Curren$y eases into the track with that Wu reference ("I call my brother son 'cause he shine like/Alaska noontime on the turnpike") gets me every time.

    Gibbs verse here is one of my all-time favorites too. "Runnin that rock like I played quarterback for the Eagles/Randall, Donovan or Michael whenever I pick this mic up..."

    Ey Maximillian, plan on reviewing the latest Roots album sooner or later? I love it, but I think I'm in the minority.

    1. AnonymousMay 31, 2014

      I loved it too but waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too short

  2. What has Spitta been doing these past months anyway?

    1. AnonymousJune 02, 2014

      He dropped Drive In Theater, which has to be up there with Covert Coup as one of his top mixtapes

  3. AnonymousMay 30, 2014

    hey nice short review im gonna check this out

    you say your a beatmaker what programs do you use and can we find any of your music online


  4. AnonymousMay 30, 2014

    Can we get a review of Skyzoo & Torae Barrell Brothers?

    1. Sure, if one of you two wants to write about it. I have no imminent plans. It's not a part of my ongoing project.

  5. AnonymousMay 31, 2014

    I thought we had you back for good Max :(

    1. I'm still behind the scenes editing. Someone still has to publish these things.

  6. sweaty car salesmanMay 31, 2014

    tell max to review analog brothers pimp to eat or big bear doin thangs ohhhh yehhhh

    1. Um, I'm right here. And you're probably the only person on the planet that actually requested that Analog Brothers album, so I expect to see a bunch of comments from you when I finally run one.

  7. AnonymousMay 31, 2014

    Where do you get this for free?

    1. Google is your friend. Only the instrumental album costs money.

  8. AnonymousMay 31, 2014

    I didn't like this album so much. These Alchemist beats seem a bit throwaway to me. Curren$y is a really average rapper. These songs are really short and he seems to spend half the track adlibbing 'Jet Life, Jet Life'. There are a handful of ok songs. Especially the Freddie Gibbs track which is definetly a big highlight.

    This was the first Alchemist project I heard, it left me feeling like he is overrated. But then I listened to Action Bronson's Rare Chandeliers, the beats are so much better on there. It is a much better project then this one with Curren$y. Would love to see that get a review on here.

    1. awkward moment where i thought Alchemist on Rare Chandeliers was boring. Yolo

    2. AnonymousJune 02, 2014

      I agree can we get a Action Bronson Rare Chandeliers review up on here shit is way better than this shit.

    3. We'll see. (Read: probably not anytime soon, but I'll look into it.)

  9. One of the most cohesive projects of the last couple of years as far as instrumentals go, in my opinion. The standout track is definitely Scottie Pippen.

    All in all a good pairing and I consider all the praise that it got justified.

  10. Nice review Max.

    Since you like this album, you'll definitely like Du Rag Dynasty (another Alchemist produced album with west coast rappers Planet Asia, Tristate, and Killer Ben). Pure lyricism with the hot ALC beats.

    1. I didn't actually write this review, and my opinion about Alchemist's hit-and-miss nature is well-documented on the site, so...pretty sure you didn't mean for this to come to me. Although Durag Dynasty has been on my radar for a while now.