Ridin’ the bench is no fun. Just ask Young Money/Cash Money’s former top draft pick Curren$y. After his three-year relationship with Baby and Wayne failed to produce an album, the Hot Spitta demanded a trade. Now, playing for the team Fly Society, Curren$y has released a series of mixtapes to solidify his rep as one of the N.O.’s finest. His latest, Higher Than 30,000 Feet, shows that there is life after Cash Money.

To be perfectly clear, Curren$y is not trying to outrap Weezy. Instead, he gives listeners a glimpse into the life of a hip-hop skater boy from the bottom of the map. On “Won’t Leave Me Alone,” Curren$y jacks Kurupt’s “We Can Freak It,” morphing the Cali cool-out anthem into a story about a triflin’ one-night stand returning to wreck his current relationship. “Hear It and Fear It” reveals another side, detailing an odd yet endearing anecdote about losing a pit bull puppy in Hurricane Katrina, over The Roots’ “The Next Movement” instrumental. Not all of Curren$y’s takes on appropriated beats are as creative. “Pay Me Now” interpolates Nas’s “Hate Me Now” with uninspired lines (“You wanna hate me, then hate me, what can I do/But keep gettin’ money and make sure I shit on you”), while, on “Feelin’ It 2008,” the MC fails to breathe new life into Jay-Z’s ’96 single.

Curren$y does, however, show that he deserves more playing time, with joints like “They Shook.” Though he’ll piss off purists by rapping about ménages and weed-laced Rice Krispy treats over “Shook Ones Pt. II.,” it’s hard to deny his intensity when he spits, “[I’m] the rapper your favorite rapper’d be happy to meet/Swagger can never be unraveled, I’m as tight as can be.” Overall, Higher proves that the kid should get some shine. It’s just that Weezy’s style is a slam dunk, while Curren$y is still perfecting his finger roll.---Timmhotep Aku