It’s no secret that consistency can be a dangerous thing for a rapper. Though sustainability is an admirable and enviable quality in a business, it can be destructive for an artist, especially one working in a genre that places such a strong emphasis on ingenuity. For a rapper like Curren$y, who already reinvented himself from No Limit militia member to weed-rap impresario, innovation doesn’t come easy. Curren$y does one thing—rap in a melodic low-key mumble over lush instrumentals—really, really well. Even his digressions—like the Blaxploitation-themed Priest Andretti or the star-studded New Jet City—blend together into one long winding dirt road when viewed through the rearview mirror. For his latest mixtape Red Eye , a collaborative effort with his Jet Life crew, he’s looking outside himself to keep things fresh.
Much of the pre-release hype surrounding the tape has revolved around its unconventional distribution method: Spitta teamed up with file-sharing giant BitTorrent to release the mixtape for free. The download comes packaged with artwork, a Jet Life documentary and merchandise coupons. Releasing a mixtape on the Internet for free is obviously nothing new—that’s the model that Curren$y built his current fame around—but this type of branded release that sees an artist teaming up with a tech company instead of a traditional mixtape website is an emerging and compelling trend.
What effect does all this have on the music? Very little, luckily. Curren$y sounds as pleasantly spaced-out as ever on Red Eye, rapping over free-floating, psychedelic beats on Sledgren-produced tracks like “Role Model” and “Right Now.” His interests and themes remain similar: cars, weed, women. As is always the case, it’s the strange details and deadpan asides that make the songs, transforming them from pretty smoke-filled dioramas into livable dreamscapes. Towards the end of the excellent “Showroom 2″, he takes you on a bizarre journey in the middle of some sex talk: “Build a money mountain/Put a bed on top and we gonna fuck in it/I show you what’s up then/Waterfalls in our backyard, we let the mermaids swim.”
The album sadly isn’t all mountaintops and mermaids. Problems pop up when the tape shifts away from the low-key mumble-rap of Curren$y to the more impassioned delivery of the rest of the Jet Life team. The tape only has 13 tracks, making it a relatively brisk 47 minutes, but too often Curren$y gives up the spotlight to less interesting rappers. That tendency to cede the floor to others was more tolerable on the cameo-packed Pilot Talk and it’s expected on the official Jet World Order albums; here it can be distracting. Deelow Diamond shouts over a sinister trap beat on “Man Bando,” but the song’s eye roll worthy hook—”Bitches come and go/I don’t give a fuck though”—isn’t as catchy as it thinks it is. Similarly, Young Roddy fails to make much of an impression on “I Kno What Im Doin.” Jet Life and No Limit veteran Fiend fares far better, lending his deep, billowy drawl to the sleepy-eyed opener “California Mornings” and the Southern noir stand-out “Crawfish.”
While some rap kingpins are teaming up with giant phone companies and looking for co-signs from the art world, Curren$y remains stuck in his hazy, joyfully mundane world. He’s not rapping about tech startups or cracking jokes about torrent speeds. He’s making smart business choices while remaining true to the niche that he’s carved out, serving up his reliable product to an eager audience while exploring new ways to bring it to them. Let’s just hope that next time he doesn’t bring as many friends along. – Dan Jackson