Over the past few years, Curren$y has become a model of online cult-rap consistency, a guy who reliably cranks out three or four eminently listenable mixtapes per year. And at a certain point, that reputation could be coming back to haunt him. While his old buddy Wiz Khalifa is out there making actual (if mostly-annoying) pop hits, Curren$y is still out there, muttering out of the side of his mouth, only consenting to write actual choruses half the time and then half-assing most of those. At this point, we know exactly what we’re getting from a Curren$y mixtape: Beats that raid ’70s orchestral soul for opium-den languor, plainspoken everyman money-talk, soft cloudbanks of weed-smoke, Trademark Da Skydiver guest-verses, at least one appearance from a rejuvinated-sounding middle-aged New York rapper. It’s a relentlessly pleasant blueprint; I can’t imagine not enjoying a Curren$y mixtape at this point. But it’s also tough to imagine him releasing anything life-changing or genuinely throat-grab inspiring these days. The story about a new Curren$y tape becomes a story about tiny, incremental differences — the slow adjustment of an artisan who’s just tinkering with a dependable project a bit.
Priest Andretti, then, is different from Curren$y’s other tapes to the extent that it’s his blaxploitation tape. The title and art immortalize Youngblood Priest, Ron O’Neal’s character from the 1972 movie Super Fly, and dialog clips from the movie play in between the songs. But this isn’t a concept-piece. Curren$y isn’t pretending to be Priest, rapping from his viewpoint or even taking loose inspiration from it the way Jay-Z did on American Gangster. And the tape’s producers don’t raid Curtis Mayfield’s all-time classic soundtrack to the movie, possibly because every other rap producer has already gotten to it at some point or another. (The prospect of Curren$y rapping over nothing but Mayfield samples for an entire tape is an intriguing one, though.) Instead, the movie’s influence is a more diffuse one — a floating vicious confidence that has a whole lot to do with the bloody strut of those old B-movies.
On the hook of “Feelin Like,” Curren$y more or less spells the idea out: “Feelin’ like I can have every bitch I want / Feelin’ like all these hoes in this bitch want me.” He’s rarely quite so cavalier when he’s talking about his own accomplishments, so it’s nice to hear him directly calling out the feeling that he’s the coolest person in the room; it’s an idea that’s long wafted through his music. On “Stainless,” he and his compadres lazily contemplate how easy it might be to knock over the bank he’s in. (You don’t get the sense that they’re actually planning to rob it; just that they could.) On “Boss Dealings,” he nonchalantly holds his own with old NYC knuckleheads Noreaga and Styles P. And even the movie’s desperate climb-your-way-out compassion surfaces on “Trip To London,” a smoothed-out version of classic New Orleans bounce on which Curren$y’s gravelly grown-man consigliere Fiend brings back the rah-rah delivery of his own youth. On the same song, Curren$y himself gets fatalistic in a way he rarely does, distracting himself long enough to list half the Scarface cast (first Robert Loggia rap name-check I’ve ever heard) but then snapping back to say, “This real shit is tragic, homey; them automatics is actually clapping.”
Of course, this is still very much a Curren$y tape, and lazy luxurious drift is still its strongest virtue. But it also brings just a hint of the harder, darker feelings that run through those movies he obviously loves. Not a departure, then, but a small leap forward from a guy who never steps wrong.
Download Priest Andretti for free here.