In the video for Curren$y’s first single, 2006’s “Where da Cash At,” he’s at a waterside mansion, hundreds of video vixens in the pool and on the balcony behind him, his former label boss Lil Wayne at his side. It’s a great song, seductive yet dangerous, but in retrospect you have to wonder if the Caulfeld-esque Curren$y found it phony.
Fast forward to November 2009, when the official video for “Life Under the Scope,” the Pilot Talk closer, hit the Web. There’s not another soul around, and the most extravagant backdrop is a deserted modern art gallery. As the title and the lyrics suggest, the spotlight is all on him now. No props, just his New Orleans drawl, incredibly catchy synth loops, and some of the best drum rolls in hip-hop.
In total, seven of the 13 tracks on Pilot Talk ended up with official or promo videos. Curren$y is a loner in all of them, at most appearing with a few friends, and even then only in intimate settings. There are some quick shots of him performing in front of a crowd in the video for the lead single, “King Kong”, but that’s the farthest he ever strays from solitude.
What marks this album is the step it takes out of the neon lights of Ciroc, Maybachs, clubs, and the Euro dance beats of today’s pop-hop. This is bossa hip-hop—cool, breezy and removed. What it shares with the Brazilian jazz of the early ’60s is a tone both carefree and existentially lonely. The savory synth squiggles that dot producer Ski Beatz’ tracks throughout only add to the ethereal sound. Like any great stoner album, these songs aren’t planted on the ground, but fly high in the sky.
Which brings you back to the most striking difference in his early “Where da Cash At” video: the absence of weed, his current calling card. It’s the centerpiece of the J.E.T. (Just Enjoy This) Life philosophy/brand Curren$y endorses today, and he sounds comfortable now on Pilot Talk, embracing it fully. That seeming relaxation has resulted in some of the best hip-hop released all year. As he raps on “Skybourne”: “They lied / Money really do grow on trees.”