Curren$y may not have brought weed rap into the mainstream, but he set the precedent. Before Wiz Khalifa convinced Volvo-driving soccer moms to run out and buy their teenage sons Taylor Gang hoodies at the local Hot Topic, before Mac Miller scored a #1 debut on the Billboard charts, Curren$y was enjoying the success of his 2010 breakthrough Pilot Talk: an LP that, despite only modest commercial success, scored the New Orleans rapper invaluable cred with hip-hop snobs and mainstream audiences alike. Pilot Talk lacked the Euro-trance production and soulless Lil Wayne cameos of so many of 2010’s biggest rap albums: no frills, just lush, jazzy soundscapes and faded flows. Spitta didn’t invent the idea of rapping about weed; it’s a familiar, material subject like girls, cars, or money. What he did do was show that stoner rap could be immersive, mature, and game-changing.
Two years later, Wiz and Mac have expanded the hazy reaches of the stoned throne, headlining festivals and making cameos on Maroon 5 songs about payphones. At the same time, underground MCs like Big K.R.I.T. and Smoke DZA are starting to gain national recognition. And now, with the release of The Stoned Immaculate — his latest album and first on a major label — Spitta seems poised to take a primo seat at the underground hip-hoppantheon.
It’s a shame, then, that the opening lines of The Stoned Immaculate belong not to the Louisianan with the molasses-thick mumbles we’ve grown to know and love, but to the pitchy brays of Wale (who, poor guy, cannot seem to break his streak of sub par guest spots). “We blessed to be here/ It’s a blessing for you to be here with us,” he begins: a failed attempt at modesty later unhinged by boasts so bone-dumb (“Gucci bucket/ I’m Gilligan”) you can literally hear him smirk. By the time Spitta finally shows up, it’s too late; the track feels dead, the paradisaical harp flutters a mere afterthought.
Indeed, this LP’s batch of cameos — Wale, Wiz Khalifa, Pharrell — turns out to be the album’s biggest hindrance. “No Squares,” an earnest trap joint, features some great lines about chasing money “like it said something about my mama,” but it’s defanged the second that Wiz shows up to brag about “dressing like a hippy.” Meanwhile, the Neptunes’ sole offering, the slinky “Chasin’ Papers” — the type of lounge-y cut that seems designed for Spitta’s laid-back musings — relies too heavily on Pharrell’s lazy attempt at an Auto-Tuned hook. (Maybe he just purchased the I Am T-Pain mic from Target’s toy department.)
But when Curren$y gets more room to roam, we’re offered glimpses of greatness, with lead single “Fast Cars Faster Women” being the most promising chart-topper. “Chandelier” revists the live jazz of last February’s Muscle Car Chronicles: a snare-filled, snappy reflection on love’s cruel codes of honor (“Double standard rules apply/ You can’t do what a man do”) that showcases the rapper’s rhythmic dexterity. Even better is the Eastern-influenced swank of “Armoire,” an exotic sounding board for lines rooted in both hustling (“Money and smoke, that’s all I know”) and higher art (“I lean like the Tower of Pisa on stained glass”).
Longtime fans will be relieved to know that Warner Bros. has left Spitta’s stoney, spacey aesthetic relatively intact; in the wake of so many crossover horror stories, we may take solace in the fact that there are no RedOne production spots on this album. With The Stoned Immaculate, Curren$y has successfully touched down in the land of commercial weed rap with a solid set of downtempo tunes that have everything they need to be successful: rich soundscapes, witty brags, hummable hooks. It just needs a stronger presence from the Jet-Life juggernaut himself.