The Jet Files: A Guide to the Essential Curren$y
It’s long overdue that we at Lampin’ pay homage to Curren$y, known interchangeably as Spitta. Nev parses through the Jet Life CEO's vast discography, giving us a definitive list of must-listen tracks, albums, and mixtapes.
I first heard of Curren$y in ninth grade, circa 2009. At the time, I was the conscientious objector type when it came to smoking weed. I was anything but outspoken as a kid, but when it came to pot, I would passionately denounce the stuff to anyone who brought it up around me. “What are you insane? I’m not gunna smoke that shit and go to hell.”
Less than a year later, I found myself in Tahoe with my friends struggling to figure out how a gravity bong works. Curren$y played a big part in this transformation. But while smoking is a common motif in his music, there’s much more substance to it than herb glorification. His massive body of work has taught me a lot about life, namely:
- J.E.T.S. (Just Enjoy This Shit)
- Hard work pays off (Of course I was told this before but I saw it in real time with Spitta)
- Love your friends/Don’t trip on people who aren’t
- An appreciation for classic cars
- A masterclass on how to be a cool ass dude who’s slick with words
So without further ado, let’s get into the essential Curren$y. This guide is organized into three sections: Best Albums, Best Mixtapes, and a Potpourri of fifteen standout tracks from FIFTEEN different projects. I hope that this concise guide will be a good jump-off point for the Curren$y-curious and an affirmation of what us Lifers generally agree on. We’re not much for debating.
Pilot Talk (I + II) (2010)
Released four months apart from each other, these are two large pieces of the same whole, blending together seamlessly, with the majority of production done by Ski Beatz and incredible album artwork done by David Barnett. To me, these are Curren$y’s seminal works. The ones you run back into the burning building to rescue. Much of the credit has to go to Ski Beatz, as the beats both cater perfectly to Spitta’s style as well as sound gorgeous as instrumentals. You can’t help but groove to this lovely blend of jazz, psych-rock, and hip-hop. A special shoutout to Young Roddy and Trademark da Skydiver, two artists who came up with Spitta in the late '00s and provide timeless contributions to his catalogue.
Lyrically, Spitta does whatever he wants and it’s brilliant. There’s tongue-twisters (“Illegible letters in my ledger”), made-up terms that have to be defined for comprehension (“Crack lacerations…. Dope cuts muhfucka, catch up”), and even a reference to Karate Kid.
If I had to sum up the feeling these albums give the listener, I would liken it to flying around the world first-class with your best friends and getting treated really, really well by the flight crew. The Captain tips his hat and welcomes you aboard. The plane is full of snacks and has PlayStation and kung fu movies. You disembark and get stoned and drink fresh-squeezed lemonade by the beach. Then you get back in the plane and it repeats. The flight crew hasn’t changed at all. They might be robots but they’re super polite so you kind of just ignore it and enjoy yourself on the way to the next stop….
From Pilot Talk: “Breakfast,” “Audio Dope II,” “Roasted” (Feat. Young Roddy & Trademark da Skydiver), “Skybourne” (Feat. Big K.R.I.T. & Smoke DZA), “Address,” “Life Under the Scope”
From Pilot Talk II: “Airbourne Aquarium,” “Famous,” “Real Estates” (Feat. Dom Kennedy), “Hold On” (Feat. Young Roddy & Trademark da Skydiver), “Highed Up”
How Fly (2009)
Jay-Z and Kanye West. Mos Def and Talib Kweli. MF DOOM and Madlib. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib. Curren$y and Wiz Khalifa. How Fly is an all-time collaborative hip-hop project.
With 11 years' hindsight, it's awesome looking at this tape in the context of where these two were at in their careers, particularly in Wiz's case. At the time of How Fly's release, his identity as an artist was still far from solidified. 2007's Prince of the City 2 featured don't-fuck-with-me-I'm-from-Pittsburgh Wiz wearing ridiculously oversized tees. In 2009's Flight School, he's positively OD'ing on auto-tune and wearing a Hurley backpack. Both of these projects had their moments, but something had to give.
How Fly was the moment in time when Wiz found his footing as a star. After its release, he went on to drop his two best mixtapes, Burn After Rolling and Kush & Orange Juice. In 2011, Rolling Papers came out and from there it was history.
The reason How Fly was so successful was the obvious chemistry between the two. Musically, Curren$y was the steak and Wiz was the sizzle. Spitta's kush-laden style fit Wiz like a glove and he ran with it all the way to the top.
More than that though, their bond was palpable through the music. Though their careers went in separate directions, their close friendship remained intact. In 2018, I saw Curren$y perform at the Echoplex in Los Angeles. At the end of a phenomenal concert, he brought out none other than his buddy Wiz to perform a few cuts from How Fly, most notably Wiz's iconic verse on "Car Service." Wiz seemed so at home amongst this crowd, the same fan base he cut his teeth with in the late 2000's.
As the concert was wrapping up, Spitta said to Wiz: "You wanna go home and get stoned and watch movies like we used to?" And Wiz replied, "Hell yeah."
Top Tracks: "Car Service," "The Check Point," "The Planes," "S.D.L.," "In the Middle, " "Over the Building"
Covert Coup (2011)
Many of the people I talk to about this EP pronounce the “p” in “Coup.” I don’t mean to nitpick, but accuracy matters here. By mispronouncing the title, one misses the goal of this project: the takeover of underground hip-hop. Ordinarily, no one would put it past Spitta to name one of his works after a two-door vehicle, but this project represents a slight departure from his customary sweatpants and cartoons ethos. The beats, beautifully composed by Alchemist, have a lingering, somber feel — in stark contrast with Ski Beatz’s light and watery production on the Pilot Talks.
The highlight of this album comes on “Scottie Pippens." Throw this track on and tell me you can’t replicate your best ninth grade mile time. To this day, Büsh and I become slightly untethered from reality when we hear this song, making frothy-mouthed proclamations that Freddie Gibbs' verse is the single greatest moment in rap history.
Lyrically, Spitta is at his very best here. His usually smooth New Orleans drawl has a sharpness and assertiveness to it previously unheard. Just listen to the beginning of “Success is My Cologne” and you will hear a man who wants it known that he is on another level. The whole tape is a demand for overdue respect, a respect that he has steadily gained from the wider rap community but one that still seems underpaid....
Top tracks (not already mentioned): “BBS,” “The Type” (Feat. Prodigy), “Double 07”
Playlist: The Best Track From Each of 15 Different Curren$y Mixtapes