This past week, Potholes asked its contributors to do up some Top 5 and Top 10 lists to wrap up 2010. While showing my early rankings to some trusted advisors (my roommate who just woke up and my homie who barged into the apartment shouting “WAKE UP ‘expletive’ ‘expletive’ ‘expletive’ JOHNSON!”), the issue of the inclusion of Curren$y’s Pilot Talk II was raised. And by “issue was raised,” I mean “profane arguments started and epithets and personal insults were exchanged.” Claims ranged from “another weed, cars, and hoes album from a Southern rapper who just happens to have better production than Lil’ Whoever” to “stoner album of the year.” After cooler heads prevailed and the police left, we found ourselves wondering what exactly we saw, or didn’t see, in Pilot Talk II to warrant Top 10 list consideration, even if it was only in the “Top 10 Smoker Albums of 2010” category.
Curren$y has that smooth, lazy flow that’s easy on the ears, and the production on Pilot Talk II is geared toward complementing his flow and his subject matter, which can both be described as “smoky” (rimshot!). Veteran producer Ski Beatz and the Senseis produce the majority of the album, a major factor presenting Pilot Talk II as a focused, cohesive project, as the album’s production is heavily influenced by jazz and the blues. It’s odd to think that Curren$y is being linked to “focused and cohesive,” with his stream-of- consciousness raps just spilling forth but invariably coming back to familiar subjects. Think of Ski Beatz’s production as the frame in which Curren$y paints his kush-smoking, whip-driving, skirt-chasing good times, or like the lines you had to color within in your Ninja Turtles coloring book back in the day. There’s a lot going on between those lines, and it helps to have an OG in the game like Ski Beatz to help keep everything together.
Stream-of-consciousness MCs are among the most entertaining to listen to but the key to making their albums the best they possibly can be is solid production that keeps the MC from running roughshod all over the place. Think what would have happened if Ghostface Killah never met RZA. He needed that structure, while RZA created the perfect space for Ghostface to lose his mind in.
The production is what ultimately will keep Pilot Talk II in the rotation, there isn’t a wack beat to be heard throughout the album. However, much credit is due to Curren$y. Much will be made about his subject matter and its lack of diversity, but it actually works to his advantage because he’s talented enough to keep it interesting. The same can’t be said for the guest verses outside of Dom Kennedy on the fantastic “Real Estates” and Raekwon on the remix to “Michael Knight”; they seemed to be token inclusions instead of actually helping the album progress. They didn’t completely ruin another top-shelf track, “Flight Briefing,” but I could do without. Through the first four songs, Curren$y proved to be more than capable than handling this album himself. However, in a way it was better to feature Young Roddy and Trademark rather than Snoop Dogg, Mos Def, and the rest of the more well-known names that appeared on Pilot Talk, as Curren$y can just spit naturally instead of fight to not get overshadowed. And to his credit, he doesn’t get overshadowed by the production, either, which could have easily happened with the job that Ski Beatz & The Senseis did.
So Top 10 rap album of the year? Probably not, 2010 was poppin’. But it IS better than Pilot Talk and it’s not likely to leave your Proposition 19-supporting friend’s car stereo anytime soon.