Full Disclosure: I’m a huge Curren$y fan and have followed his career for about the last decade. But I’m trying really hard to look at this as objectively as possible. Be prepared for possible failure.
Very often, I have conversations with my friends about what artists and albums we’ve been listening to lately. My response is usually a mix of old and new rap, old and new death metal and a handful of random artists (as of late it’s been The Weeknd and Gesaffelstein, thanks for asking). But around 50 percent of the time the topic comes up, I drop Curren$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 respective releases in 2011 and 2015), and also because he is constantly dropping new music.
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 and April projects, Weed & Instrumentals and Revolver (the latter of which featured an accompanying short film he acted in) were released only one week apart. Prior to last year Curren$y had released a whopping total of 32 mixtapes and 12 studio albums. The New Orleans-based rapper is no stranger to pumping out music consistently. But it was the sheer rate with which his 2016 tapes dropped that was so jarring and what makes this past year so special for him.
It’s such an interesting concept to think about – can you imagine if Crystal Castles, Anderson .Paak, Kaytranada, DJ Snake, PartyNextDoor, or Lil Uzi Vert dropped a full EP every single month? Or even 6 times in a year? What would that be like for the very first artist that comes to your mind? While it’s certainly not an impossible task for most musicians to release that many projects in 365 days, how much of that output would be good and how much would be watered down garbage worse than what’s in your sink disposal trap?
Even with such a demanding release schedule, Curren$y’s mixtapes didn’t seem too rushed. The production values were high across the board and you could tell there was legitimate effort put into each project. For the most part, there was a general vibe or theme behind each work. Stoned on Ocean is meant to make you feel like what the title says – being high as hell, relaxing in very close proximity to the ocean. The four tapes in the Andretti series that ended the year are supposed to illicit feelings of riding in four very different lowriders on four very different nights New Orleans – distinct yet not wholly dissimilar from one another. But even for all their variations, his strong lyricism and ability to cruise effortlessly over excellent beats was 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 switching the vibes but maintaining his trademark consistency that has kept him from getting boring. His history of dropping quality music is what kept fans, like myself, hitting those download links for every release in 2016.
However, he didn’t go a perfect 12 for 12 during the year. The two 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 typically doesn’t rap on, so his efforts seemed forced. Also, The Owner’s Manual and Revolver lacked the certain animation, pizzaz, luster or whatever you wish to call it that has been present on the majority of his other works. But that is to say, these four projects were just decent in my opinion, especially compared to the other eight projects that I thought were damn good. This is not to say the four I named are embarrassingly bad, they just aren’t phenomenal.
His fan base is dedicated and one that is used to him releasing quality material so often that they can quickly forgive him for releasing a sub par tape. They/we know there’s a 4 out of 5 fire flame emojis-worthy tape coming shortly.
Lil B and Gucci Mane are two more major rap 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*** (names for Lil B’s and Gucci’s fans respectively) are devoted and gladly collect all the new music released by their champions. They’re just as forgiving as Curren$y fans when a release isn’t quite as glorious as ones previous.
All three of these artists, each legendary in their own right, made a career long habit out of going against the conventional wisdom that says you should always leave audiences wanting more. These rappers barely give their fans enough time to digest their last offering before they’re feeding the streets again, and that’s been a large part of their recipes for affluence.
It’s hard to imagine a lot of artists pulling succeeding after an endeavor like dropping 12 tapes in so many months. I think one reason deals with fan and critic perception – it could seem like the artist was trying too hard. It might come off as being disingenuous, like they were trying to capitalize on their own popularity or their “moment”. An artist could be labeled greedy or overly anxious to see their name in music headlines again. That level of vanity and insecurity is noticed faster than shwag weed at a Spitta show.
But with his name popping up so much in rap circles during 2016, did he wear his dedicated fans out? Did he push some potential new fans away with his constant barrage of new content? Possibly. Since I’ve been an avid fan for years at this point, I have no trouble finding out a new tape exists, downloading it and making a concentrated effort to listen to it – even when he drops music at such a frenetic pace.
However, if I were an outsider looking in, a new fan hoping to be drifted away on a lyrical weed cloud, I would be pretty intimidated. Even if I was a longtime fan but stepped away from listening for a year, there would be a lot of catching up to do. I’m sure there are some folks that are turned off by feeling pressured to catch up with all his releases. There are no doubt others that relish the opportunity to hear hours and hours of Curren$y they hadn’t heard before – it simply varies from fan to fan.
With this 12-in-12-months feat Curren$y showed his fans, and the world, he was in full stride. It doesn’t seem like he’s slowing own anytime soon either. I do a decent amount of comment reading on posts of particular interest to me (it’s pathetic but I like to see the nonsense that goes on in there sometimes). I saw a lot of “hardest working man in hip-hop” comments on the posts related to his mixtapes from last year. And I fully agree with that sentiment – I believe Curren$y is 100 percent the hardest working rapper in the game today. The Herculean feat he accomplished is worthy of praise just as strong. Anyone can sloppily throw some mediocre songs together and release them for fans to begrudgingly soak up. It takes real effort to make those worth listening to. There are rappers whose projects go farther on the Billboard charts or those that have more intensive tour schedules, and these artists undoubtedly work very hard. Yet for Spitta it’s the consistency and pacing I’ve mentioned for the 200th time that keeps him busier than any other rapper, and generally most musicians in overall.
The crazy thing is 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 c’mon, that’s a hell of a pace to keep up with.
MY 5 FAVORITE TAPES IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
• Stoned on Ocean
• The Carrollton Heist
A FEW FAVORITE SONGS IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER