Before I get into the very strong new Styles P/Curren$y EP, I should make something clear: The best mixtape I’ve heard in the past week isn’t this one; it’s Consignment: Favor For A Favor, the epic new tape from deadeyed Detroit street-rapper Boldy James. But that Boldy tape is massive — 26 songs, 80 minutes — and I need to spend some time with it before I can say anything about it beyond “holy shit, this thing is good.” Unless something truly incredible comes along in the next seven days, that’ll be Mixtape Of The Week next week. But #The1st28, the brief and unlikely Styles/Curren$y EP also deserves attention. As casual and tossed-off as the EP might seem, it’s the sort of thing that shouldn’t work: Two rappers with vastly different approaches and backgrounds and virtually no history together uniting for a truly collaborative work that finds a true middle ground between their respective aesthetics.
Curren$y, from New Orleans, is a young veteran with past ties to No Limit and Cash Money who’s become an internet star over the past few years by going it alone and developing his lazy, drift-happy aesthetic. His delivery is a liquid conversational drawl, and he tends to delight in the tiny details of his life: Lazy afternoons spent playing NBA Live, leaving the club with a girl before he actually gets through the doors in the first place. Styles is a stark contrast: He’s one of the hardest rappers in New York history, which is saying something. In a decade-and-a-half career with the Lox, he’s said more about guns than G. Gordon Liddy, and even at his most low-key, he sounds absolutely ready to slap your temples off. Styles’ flow is conversational, too, but it’s harsh and choppy in the most New York way possible; he’s never bothered with anything like Curren$y’s intricate, melodious flows.
But then, Styles’ biggest solo song was about getting high, so they have at least one thing in common. And from its cover art on down, #The1st28 feels like the product of an extended smoking session. Unlike so many other collaborative projects, these guys sound like they were actually in the same room when they were recording this, though I have no idea whether that’s actually true. There’s an easy chemistry there, as one verse drifts calmly into the next, and Styles keeps pretty calm even when he’s promising to murk you with a machine gun.
One of Curren$y’s great strengths is beat selection, and Styles benefits from that side of it, sounding as strong as always over beats way more floaty and buoyant than the tracks he usually works with. “Jekell N Hyde” is slick chopped-up Afrobeat, with horn-bursts stabbing through bubbly guitar-funk. “Lean” is spaced-out ’70s soul shattered and glued back together with a few sharp edges exposed. “Go” is hard, eerie New York sample-rap low-key enough that it doesn’t depart from Curren$y’s comfort zone. And “Billions” is an awesomely hard way to end things: A burping, slicing electro track that recalls early-’00s Neptunes. The whole thing is over in 17 minutes, and it doesn’t get anywhere close to overstaying its welcome. In both guys’ careers, this will almost certainly be remembered as a minor work, something they banged out on a long weekend when neither had anything else going on. But it’s still a furiously enjoyable little piece of rap music. We don’t get too many random-ass collabs like this, and we barely ever get one that actually works. It’s worth celebrating when it happens.
Download #The1st28 here.