Full Disclosure: I’m a fucking huge Curren$y fan and have followed his career for about the last decade. But I’m trying really hard to look at this as objectively as possible. Be prepared for possible failure.
Very often, I have conversations with my friends about what artists and albums we’ve been listening to lately. My response is usually a mix of old and new rap, old and new death metal, and a handful of random artists (as of late it’s been The Weeknd and Gesaffelstein, thanks for asking). But around 50% of the time that the topic comes up, I drop Curren$y’s name. This is due in part to the fact that I’m always revisiting previous projects (Covert Coupe and Pilot Talk 3 have rarely ever left my rotation since their release), and also because he is constantly dropping new music.
And over the course of 2016 he dropped 12 full mixtape projects at exactly 1 per month, for the entire year…
Let me say that again…12 mixtapes in 12 months…
His March release, Weed & Instrumentals, and his April release, Revolver (for which there was an accompanying short film made that he acted in) were released only one week apart. Prior to last year Curren$y had released 32 mixtapes and 12 studio albums, so producing music projects frequently was definitely nothing new. But it was the sheer rate of their release that was so jarring and what makes this past year so special for him.
And it’s such an interesting concept; can you imagine if Crystal Castles, Anderson .Paak, Kaytranada, DJ Snake, PartyNextDoor, or Lil Uzi Vert, dropped a full EP every single month? Or even 6 times in a year? What would that be like for the very first artist that comes to your mind? While it’s certainly not an impossible task for most musicians to release that many projects in 365 days, how much of that output would be good and how much would be watered down garbage worse than what’s in your sink disposal trap?
Even with such a demanding release schedule, Curren$y’s mixtapes didn’t seem rushed at all. The production values were high across the board and you could tell there was legitimate effort put into the tapes. For the most part, there was a general vibe or theme behind each tape. Stoned on Ocean is meant to make you feel like what the title says – high as hell and relaxing in very close proximity to the ocean. The 4 tapes in the Andretti series that ended the year are supposed to illicit feelings of riding in 4 very different lowriders on 4 very different nights in his hometown of New Orleans – distinct yet not wholly dissimilar from one another. But even for all their subtle and not so subtle variations, his strong lyricism and his ability to cruise effortlessly over the excellent beats he chooses is consistently there. That consistency, in my opinion, is what has allowed him to flourish in the rap game all this time.
It was this delicate balance of variation plus his trademark level of consistency kept him from getting boring and kept fans hitting download links every month throughout 2016. However, he didn’t go a perfect 12 for 12. The 2 Weed & Instrumentals tapes were a bit disappointing because many of the songs sounded a little disjointed. He was rapping at pace a little quicker than his usual on the kinds of beats he usually doesn’t rap on, so his efforts seemed forced. Also, The Owner’s Manual and Revolver lacked the certain animation, pizzaz, luster, whatever you wish to call it, that’s present on the majority of his projects. But that is to say, these 4 projects were just decent (in MY opinion) while the other 8 were damn good.
That consistency has allowed him to build and maintain a seriously dedicated fan base, one that is used to him releasing quality material so often that they will immediately forgive him for releasing a sub par tape because they know there’s a 4 out of 5 fire flame emojis-worthy tape coming shortly.
Lil B and Gucci Mane are two more major artists with absurdly extensive catalogs, and their fan bases are just as loyal. Lil B has 49 mixtapes and 10 albums while Gucci has 67 mixtapes (!) and 10 albums. The Bitch Mob and the Burrhive*** (Lil B’s and Gucci’s fans respectively) are devoted and gladly collect all the new music released by their champions. And they’re just as forgiving when a release isn’t quite as glorious as ones previous.
All 3 of these artists, each legendary in their own right, have made a career long habit out of going against the conventional wisdom that says you should always leave audiences wanting more. These rappers barely give their fans enough time to digest their last offering before they’re feeding the streets once more, and that’s been a large part of their recipes for affluence.
It’s hard to imagine a lot of artists pulling that off successfully. I think one reason for deals with fan and critic perception – it could seem like the artist was trying too hard. It might come off as being disingenuous, like they were trying to capitalize on their own popularity and were thirsty for the opportunity to see their name in music headlines again. And that level of vanity and insecurity is noticed faster than bushwack weed at a Spitta show.
But with his name popping up so much in 2016, did he wear his dedicated fans out? Did he push some potential new fans away with his constant barrage of new content? Possibly. Since I’ve been a dedicated fan for a while, I have no trouble finding out a new tape exists, downloading it, and making a concentrated effort to listen to it – even when he drops music at such a frenetic pace.
If I were an outsider looking in, a new fan hoping to be drifted away on a lyrical weed cloud, I would be pretty intimidated. Or even if I’ve been a fan but stepped away from listening for a year, there would be a lot of catching up to do, even under normal circumstances. But a simple filtered mixtape search by rating or number of downloads could easily solve that problem.
With this 12-in-12-months feat Curren$y is showing his fans, the world, that he is in full stride and not slowing down anytime soon. I do a lot of comment reading on posts of particular interest to me (it’s pathetic but I like to see the fuckery that goes on in there sometimes) and I saw a lot of “hardest working man in hip-hop” comments on the posts related to his mixtapes from last year. And I fully agree with that sentiment – Curren$y is definitely the hardest working rapper in the game today. The Herculean feat he accomplished is worthy of praise just as strong.
The crazy thing is that he really doesn’t have to do anything like this. At this point in his career he could disappear for a couple years, leaving without a peep, and come back to find his fans still cheering louder than the most potent of OG kush strains. But this is a man that truly loves his job. Why would someone ever want to work so hard otherwise? It has to be super fun for him otherwise he wouldn’t do it. And he’s perfecting his craft more and more with each release. I think he’s in the prime of his career at this moment, which is saying a lot because he has been killing it since the How Fly days back in 2009 with Wiz Khalifa. That kind of work ethic is truly admirable and it’s something I strive to emulate myself in this upcoming year as best I can. But goddamn, that’s a hell of a pace to keep up with.
5 FAVORITE TAPES IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
• Stoned on Ocean
• The Carrollton Heist
A FEW FAVORITE SONGS IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER