(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.
And so it begins. Alan's beat is slow (a recurring theme) and pleasant. Curren$y lets off a couple of warm-up bars, but he keeps it short, so consider this a sort of an intro. A solid track.
2. THE TYPE (FEAT. PRODIGY)
Oh goody, goody, a Jailbird P feature! Albert comes through after a solid Curren$y verse (and a brief interlude in which he and Curren$y appear to be arguing or something), rewarding the audience by not sucking entirely. Alan's beat was pretty good, too, I suppose.
3. BLOOD, SWEAT AND GEARS (FEAT. FIEND)
The first not-so-good track. The Alchemist's beat is repetitive, and Spitta Andretti isn't interesting enough to compensate for that. Meh. At least guest star Fiend (of No Limit Records and being Curren$y's friend fame) offers an excellent verse and hook, almost managing to save the day. Almost.
4. LIFE INSTRUCTIONS (FEAT. SMOKE DZA)
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$y and DZA immediately click, because both of them live primarily in the “money, bitches, and weed” region of hip hop. Alan's loop makes them both sound good, too.
5. SMOKE BREAK
A lot of the tracks on Covert Coup are short, which is fine by me, since that means our hosts don't necessarily want to bore the listener to death when they can move to other ideas quickly. The music is decent, and Curren$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.
6. SCOTTIE PIPPEN (FEAT. FREDDIE GIBBS)
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$y plays James Bond on this Alchemist-produced film score. The excellence of this track cannot be overlooked: Alan's drums are bone-crushing, and his piano and rock guitar chops make it easy to imagine what Spitta would sound like with the musical backing of Deep Purple, or even Cream. Kills the last five tracks; there is no competition.
9. SUCCESS IS MY COLOGNE
An interesting song title. Curren$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.
10. FULL METAL
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.)
(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.)