Every track on Curren$y’s new mixtape Covert Coup starts with short tight samples looped into deep, dark, sneaky music. It’s the same kind of beat that Alchemist has thrown behind hard as nails rappers like Mobb Deep for years. This time, though, it’s not Prodigy’s anti-flow of pain and fearlessness that barks over the backdrop; it’s a smug, loose, New Orleans drawl that doesn’t gently tip toe over the beat. It’s the voice of someone with no time to waste who rips bar after bar; images clever enough to match the fragmented beauty of the beat. He just goes for maybe two and a half minutes or so, and then stops, no hook. The songs are named after either his or Alchemist’s favorite line from the track (“Success is my Cologne”, “Scottie Pippens”, “Double 07”) and then he just lets the beat play. If you listen closely, you can hear him underneath it all. He’s not rapping, he’s just mumbling- maybe chanting way behind the music…Jet Life, Jet Life…Jet Life, Jet Life. It doesn’t feel like a creative ad-lib that he is stamping the song with. It feels somehow like the focal point of his artistic presence. An artist so centered in who he is that this skill, this achievement of a track is just…Jet Life.
Being both a fan of Alchemist and Curren$y, I was very skeptical as to how this would work. . The fear was that with Alchemist these tracks would be so muted they would bore the most devoted listener. A rapper this fearlessly Southern in not just content, but intonation over a producer who makes a very specifically grungy and stark East Coast, dirty Timbaland boots music can sound like two things that shouldn’t be in the same room. The result, happily, is the opposite. Alchemist proves that he can make his sound work for any really skilled artist and Curren$y proves that he leads the song no matter who is producing it. A lot of credit has to go to an artist like Curren$y who works with great producers and proves that he has a good ear for his own sound. He knows better than I do when he’s not taking a risk at all.
Covert Coup is offered as a free EP, but it’s not. Both Alchemist and Curren$y create a ton of music. Alchemist is not only handing out tracks for everyone’s album, but puts out his own records quite regularly. Unlike other producers that do this; however, his quality rarely slips. Curren$y put out two albums last year (Pilot talk 1 and 2) and another mixtape, Return to The Winner’s Circle, this year. Covert Coup is ten tracks deep, which could easily be considered an album, but for artists as proficient as these two it feels short. Calling it an EP acknowledges that they probably could have done ten more.
“Full Metal” is probably the most devastating track in terms of smashing you with mind-bending bass and completely unique content. Curren$y opens with “Ugh, I call my brother sun cause he shine like/ noon time, Alaska on the turnpike/maneuvering my GT5, my nerves is ice.” The imagery is completely his own; I have never heard any rap artist lyrically talk about the way the sun looks at noon in Alaska. It’s not deep or spiritual but it’s a fresh image that paints a picture of a thoughtful person even while layering Braggadocio.
All of the features are impressive. Fiend, who is beginning to sound like Rock from Heltah Skeltah, is especially notable; but no one comes close to Freddie Gibbs who has one of those magical moments where he feels like the future of Hip Hop. His speed rap alliterative stripped down gangster persona fits perfectly over Alchemist’s grimy murk. But even as Gibbs has his moment, you can almost see Curren$y nodding his head in the background unworried. His verse on the track works in Cobra from GI JOE and Cobra Kai the villainous organization from Karate Kid. He’s playful while being somber, and so when he throws control of the track to Gibbs, it’s because he’s the closer but everyone fits. He is never outshined; no one is ever more interesting.
Nothing is more re-listenable than Covert Coup. No beat will hook you like “Ventilation” Or “Full Metal”. A thousand different lines will stick sideways in your consciousness. Download this tape, so you can imagine me with headphones waiting for the bus and muttering Jet Life over and over again.
You can download Covert Coup here
http://covertcoup.currensyspitta.com/ (they email you a link)