Curren$y isn't doing bad these days, selling out 30 dollar shows in Ft. Lauderdale with his #jetlife relatively unaffected by the recession or poor record sales.
His output in 2012 would be "banner" for most other artists, but was just another solid bit of prolific efficiency from the stoner auteur. Still, it's easy to mistake his post-Pilot Talk career for coasting.
Much like his raps, half-slurred under a smoke cloud in a way that hides labyrinths of intricately layered rhyme schemes, his output is equally subtle in its variations. So much so that he's been accused of making the same album over and over again, which is absurd. His four releases last year mildly accentuated the lavish minimalism of his blunted persona, in particular the free ones.
His Priest Andretti mixtape, loosely built around snippets of Superfly, was like a subtler American Gangster, less parallel narrative than an Airtight Willie & Me-like collection of short stories about pimps, players, and dealers. Instead of a pricy comeback album, cashing-in on a disposable A-list biopic, it's a free datpiff offering. Spitta spins tales of drugs, cars, and women around one of the more indelible feats of the Black Hollywood era -- stylish enough to leave an imitable aesthetic legacy and smart enough to hide a searing critique of drug-dealing and limited opportunities for blacks in the post-civil rights era.
Curren$y comfortably goes meta, lobbing a kiss-off about a loss of credit for not playing a "role." He floats into self-made myth lyrics, connecting the familial -- "picture my father was a hustler that's what in me" -- to the material -- "the rent's due, gotta make ends meet" -- to the societal -- "hurricane made me out to be a looter" -- to the metaphorical -- "place I call home turn me into a shooter."
Cigarette Boats, an EP from last summer, was created with top underdog producer Harry Fraud, who got a huge applause at the night's show. In a way, it seems loosely built around late night Netflix viewings of Billy Corben docs, saddling some Square Grouping in some lush '80s pallettes. The should-have-been-bigger already-made-it anthem "WOH" features a cruise-controlled downtune of Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy." Though not as haunting as the original, its tangential relation to the rap narrative of going legit instead of getting stuck in a hometown trap, is a similar kind of affirming. All that was missing was a Moby sample on a track where Spitta takes a Sino-Cuban Queenpin to Havana on the titular go-fast boat. But at least there's a track called "Biscayne Bay!"
As for the show, I got there at 11 (#flightdelaylife), when Curren$y was set to go on, and thus missed the routine of sardine-packed openers. Gathering from the crowd's grumblings, even though he took the stage relatively early,and on time, it was exhausting. In what must have been a nightmare for any rap opener still stuck in "the struggle," the DJ asked "are y'all ready for Curren$y?" to rapturous applause before breaking the news that "we got one more performer to bring out."
At that point, the crowd nearly went Live at Altamont and lost it in a sea of boos. When the performers came out and rapped some tired lines about being "like Rick James, bitch, fuck yo couch!" or "pull up in my whip like 2 girls, 1 cup." With the Big Sean "skrrt" ad-lib, it only seemed to make matters worse. They started passing out blunts, possibly in an effort to pacify the audience before leaving by way of an invisible hook.
It was a good move, as what followed was a chess game made entirely of pawns. For some reason, the stage was crowded with self-anointed important types, including a bewildered dude with a camera that looked like Spike Jonze and another guy that looked like part of the unwanted suitor posse from Loves of a Blonde (maybe he was a lawyer?). The host dropped some hot bars from "Gotta clear this stage up!" and "Follow me on Twitter" ad nauseum, until Curren$y's tour DJ took matters into her own hands. "I am not playing any of Curren$y's music til y'all get up off this stage." It was fun watching her command a stage of unruly and unwanted dudes. Then she asked "where them jets at?!" before dropping "Airborne Aquarium" sans Spitta.
After the M:I 2 bait-and-switch, Curren$y magically appeared at 11:20, blunt in hand, yelling "what's up?!" like his voice was cracking at a bar mitzvah thank you speech. He broke bread with "let's not waste time, let's do this shit," and immediately lived up to his end of the bargain, practically Fiery Furnace-ing his entire catalogue as one bumping medley.
Appropriately, he launched into "Smoke Break," rapping "yeah the style done switched up" and "bet y'all can't keep up," which worked both for his rollicking cadence and cartoonish physical prowess. It was something like Corky Romano, if it was about weed instead of cocaine. The line in "Full Metal" about being like "AZ holding a baby" worked too, since that live-show helium-effect gave his voice a bit of AZ's pubescent giddiness.
Curren$y's fleshed out, full-bodied performance was proof you didn't need a full band to rock a show, but some of external elements helped. The drum sample that opens "High Tunes" rumbled like a Neal Pert solo. On record, the sample of Sade's "Sally" on Pilot Talk II's "Famous" makes Curren$y sound (awesomely) like the rap game Gregory Abbott. But live, anytime the stage lights got reset to "blinding," it felt like the government bunker unveiling of the old Roswell spaceship in Independence Day. The horns and looped singers on the "Super High" remix sounded like the Mondoshawans descending on Luke Perry's Egyptian Temple in the Fifth Element.
Spitta's verse on that track also distills his strengths, coming in for a professional hit job that sets an impossibly high bar for Wiz and Ross (thankfully absent). He basically plays cat's cradle with the syllables, tumbling down a valley of consonant successionals in "purple cushions broke my fall, I fell from a grapevine" before stop starting "super hiiiigh. from the. free. throw. line. I'm. Dreeexler status, glide. du.cking.es.pi.o.nawj." Dude's just talking about getting high, but if you reduce it to that, you miss the myriad linguistic connections sculpted just to make the experience feel the otherworldly rush of, like, Robin Williams running on painted daffodils in What Dreams May Come.
Lights came up at midnight to mass confusion. While the set was 40 minutes, only slightly longer than a festival set, the shock of the early dismissal made it easy to forget that Spitta just ran through 24 songs like it was a hardcore show.
If there was a live taping, it could have been rap's land speed record. Being a gentleman though, Curren$y pre-empted the V.I.P. meet-and-greet and stood at the side of the stage signing autographs. A mass migration followed suit, and soon the crowd celebrated Spitta Teresa, with offerings of sneakers, CDs, sweaters, iphones, iphone cases, even money, which he jokingly took like "I thought you was payin' me!" But Spitta wasn't taking anyone's money that night, at least not without anything in return.