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The New Orleans-based Curren$y is a weed rapper, which means his job is to make something usually associated with directionless demotivation seem badass. The art of weed rapping is the art of bragging about surpassing low expectations, and there are a couple ways to do this: the current big mainstream WR, for instance, is probably Lil Wayne, but for Wayne weed’s just one of about nine zillion obsessive symbols of his own space-alien Otherness. (No other rapper besides Andre 3000 has spent more time getting high on spaceships, but Weezy never invites you up.) Then there’s the drifting, goofy warmth of Redman and Method Man, rap’s acting Cheech and Chong in the 90s; or of MF Doom, who raps in free-associative mumbles and cut an album with Aqua Teen Hunger Force. These guys welcome you in, the way people who are incoherently stoned on something mellow do: the albums let you sit down, hang out a while, accept that not a whole lot’s gonna happen, laugh hard. The stuff MF Doom mumbles turns out to be really clever, if you pay enough attention.
Curren$y spends lots of time bragging, but he never locks you out. Over four albums and several mixtapes, he’s perfected a slightly dreamy drawl, wandering through beats that are warm, loungey and a little distant, like someone who likes you but is having trouble focusing. He’s absurdly proud of small things–the size of his stash, his Call of Duty skills, the perfect Ritz cracker he just prepared. He talks a lot about getting stoned on planes, but he never says where they’re going. He’s not an egoist so much as easily satisfied.
Covert Coup, a 27-minute collaboration with The Alchemist released for free in honor of 4/20, is chillier than last year’s Pilot Talk records: the beats, like the title, are from the paranoid, metallic, CIA-history-obsessing end of being high. Choruses are either flickering, indiscernable samples or just someone repeating a couple of lines a lot. (One of the songs on Pilot Talk 2 had a chorus that consisted entirely of Curren$y saying the name of the protagonist of Knight Rider over and over; here, “The Type” circles around a repeated line from Outkast’s weediest album.) But it’s never insular, or truly cold: it spools itself out too curiously, spotted with piano doodles and snatches of psych-rock guitar, and Curren$y eases into songs, drawling distant “yeah”s as a beat’s first few seconds stumble into a groove. He brags about how high he is, how high his friends are, how high your girlfriend wants to get. His own girlfriend, he notes, can “carry her own weight financially.” He touts the importance of exercise. When he’s aggressive, it’s because he’s making fun of you for getting hit too hard by the pot.
Curren$y’s occasional unfriendliness is as much a part of being a good weed rapper as the chilly beats. He claims to be really cool, much cooler than you, but he’ll admit being cool’s not too hard, and he’s happy to hand out his secrets. He calls a song “Life Instructions,” and the first line is “Pattycake, pattycake / I’m baked, my man.”