Weed and hip-hop have a long history together. Dr. Dre’s The Chronic ushered in an era of marijuana appreciation that hip-hop has never quite gotten over. At the time, it was associated with Scarface Chic: weed, a house full of homies, expensive alcohol, half-naked women, more weed, and someone with a big, sexy gun. Hip-hop’s weed purveyors rapped about Mary Jane as though it was only part of a larger sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll equation, and smoking added a hazy danger to the bad boy image.
But it’s 2010 and your grandmother smokes weed. There has been a drastic shift in the way marijuana is treated in hip-hop, and the reigning King of Kush is Curren$y. Curren$y raps about weed. A lot. But unlike his 1990s predecessors, the New Orleans native raps about smoking weed, sitting around and doing not much of anything. “Download a updated NBA roster / Play a 82-game season / Condo full of snacks / Spitta not leaving,” he raps on “Breakfast,” from his debut album on Def Jam Records, Pilot Talk.
Curren$y champions the everyman stoner image, rapping about munchies, video games and episodes of Family Guy, and he’s speaking to a substantial audience.
Though XXL Magazine just crowned Curren$y a top rap freshman in 2009, he’s made enough rounds in coveted hip-hop crews to be considered a vet. His first stop was Master P’s No Limit Records, where he was a member of the 504 Boyz. But this was during the height of No Limit’s reign when half of the Crescent City was a member of No Limit, so the young rapper got lost in the shuffle.
After his failure to catch on there, Curren$y was approached by Lil Wayne to become the first member of the Cash Money star’s offspring record label, Young Money Entertainment. For a couple of years, Curren$y Da Hot Spitta was Lil Wayne’s sidekick, appearing alongside the soon-to-be megastar in every music video and trading bars on mixtapes and Weezy’s Tha Carter II. After a handful of impressive cameos, Spitta was ready to drop his debut album, or so he thought. The single “Where Da Cash At?” featured Wayne and Remy Ma, but it failed to expedite the album’s release. After months of waiting and false starts, Curren$y ditched Young Money and went indie.
With his newfound independence, Spitta underwent an important image change. His gangsta life rhymes about money and guns were replaced with stories of rolling up and hanging out, much to the delight of a slowly but steadily increasing crop of fans who could relate.
While Kanye West raps about material conquests the rest of us don’t have because we don’t have his millions, Curren$y works on a more modest scale. He raps about affordable but limited edition Air Jordans that only specialty online boutiques or eBay carries. He raps about clothing brands that aren’t extravagant, but they’re ones only found after hours of searching the Web. They require weed-assisted patience more than cash.
And where does one market a sound catered to the marijuana lover that has free time to surf the ‘Net for hours looking for hard-to-find outfits in between games of Madden? Why, the Internet, of course.
After leaving Young Money, Curren$y took his show viral. Equipped with a new catch phrase (“Jets, now where haven’t we been yet?”) he released free mixtapes (including the excellent Smokee Robinson from earlier this year) and countless songs to adoring listeners who wear the same shoes as he does and appreciate a nice $30 t-shirt as if it were a fine Sauvignon Blanc.
The growing Internet and critical buzz caught the attention of semi-fallen rap mogul Damon Dash, whose Roc-A-Fella empire crumbled in the wake of once-partner Jay-Z’s rise to pop culture icon. Dash has since latched on to Spitta, becoming his liaison between him and Def Jam, which finally released his debut on July 13.
“This is the greatest night of my life,” Spitta said in front of a packed crowd at Republic, bottle in hand, dancing along as EF Cuttin spun tracks from Pilot Talk. “I’m just partying with my friends tonight,” Curren$y says on the house microphone as “The Day”—his collaboration with fellow New Orleanian Jay Electronica and new local Mos Def—plays in the background. As he says this, he looks to the VIP section, packed with local rappers and DJs that all have a different story about hanging out with Spitta. Right outside of the VIP area are even more people maneuvering past the security, trying any excuse, swearing that they are close friends with the man of the hour.
Curren$y then turns his attention to the crowd: “We’re all friends, right?” A roar erupts, filling the room just as much as the billowing smoke. Yes, Curren$y is the rapper with the microphone and album coming out. But that doesn’t matter. Right now, he’s just a guy on a stage looking for a good time and better bud, just like everyone else.