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Curren$y’s ‘Pilot Talk’ Trilogy Is a Small Victory

And now you can finally stream the whole Ski Beatz–produced project on Spotify

(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

In one of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, Calvin asks Hobbes what he’d wish for if he could have anything in the world at that moment, and Hobbes says he’d like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Calvin, upset at his imaginary friend’s lack of vision, says he’d ask for a “trillion billion dollars,” and his own private continent. The final panel depicts Hobbes eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the kitchen, saying, “I got my wish.”

I always find my way back to that strip and Hobbes’s fulfillment in tiny joys when explaining the draw of a song called “Breakfast” and, indeed, the guy who was responsible for crafting it.

“Breakfast” was made by Curren$y, a rapper from New Orleans, and Mos Def, a rapper who used to be from Brooklyn but is now a global citizen with universe brain named Yasiin Bey who has transcended both people orientation and international politics as well as the need to rap, sort of. In 2010, however, Mos played the role of producer on Curren$y’s Pilot Talk album alongside the legendary Ski Beatz — who crafted towering classics like “Dead Presidents” and “Who You Wit” for Jay Z, as well as most of Uptown Saturday Night for Camp Lo — and Mos strung together jangling samba guitars and lolling horns to make this gorgeous song that sounded like when orange juice meets champagne. The beat was practically begging for a chronicling of someone’s perfect day, and so Curren$y rapped over it about whiling away an afternoon eating Zapp’s chips and playing 2K:

These matter-of-fact bars, plus the video in which Curren$y walks around on the beach in Chucks burning down his second joint of the day, are simultaneously Spitta’s ethos and selling point: rapping really well about life’s small pleasures, and aggressively not doing things he doesn’t feel like doing. His ideal quality of life involves gray Polo sweats, a yellow gold Rolex, ample amounts of weed, being able to watch Layer Cake as many times as he wants, not having to think twice about buying parts to retrofit his small fleet of old model cars, and never having to look at factory-variant Jordans again. And fresh-squeezed lemonade, not that Minute Maid crap. That was his wish, and eight years, countless projects’ worth of free music, and two for-sale ones into his career, I’d say he’s earned the right to enjoy it.

Curren$y’s career began in 2002 when he signed with Master P during the fall of the No Limit empire, patching in as a fringe member of the 504 Boyz. He then found his way to Cash Money, where he rapped with Lil Wayne about Mac-11s and snub noses and other things he wouldn’t really rap about once he went independent in late 2007.

Pilot Talk was the result of Curren$y moving to Tribeca and throwing in his lot with Dame Dash’s bizarro DD172, a venture that pulled in the likes of Big K.R.I.T., Stalley, Mos Def, and noted figment of our collective imagination Jay Electronica. Dash also helped rechristen the Black Keys as the hip-hop-inclined group “BlakRoc” and put them on a song with Jim Jones. Two years later the whole thing went belly up.

The Curren$y–Ski Beatz collaboration, however, was the perfect marriage of journeyman and landscape artist. Beatz laid down soft jazz with hard drums over which the New York transplant could express contentment with everything from fast food to chilling in a rocking chair on a porch in Saugerties.

It worked so well that they did it again on Pilot Talk II just months later. It was another skit-free 40 minutes of tight rapping about cars that are out of production, obscure daytime television references, weed, money, women, and women Curren$y can’t trust with said weed or money. Take, for example, “Michael Knight”:

You knew exactly what you were getting with the Pilot Talk series: Curren$y saying every cool thing ever over lush, woozy, spaced-out production, occasionally with a few high (heh) powered guests. But the third installment — which featured a surprisingly great Riff Raff verse, I know — didn’t materialize until nearly five years later in April 2015. The gap in releases was due to some combination of seeming uninterest on Curren$y’s part, the demands of other projects, and a sticky legal situation with Dash’s DD172 over the rights to the first two projects once Curren$y inked a deal with Warner Bros. in 2011.

While each of the three Pilot Talks were available for streaming at some point or another, they were never a mainstay on any platform, and would appear briefly on one site or another before disappearing again. “Why isn’t Pilot Talk on Spotify?” was a question that Curren$y and Spotify both had to answer somewhat regularly, as it was a source of frustration for those of us with ears and internet connections and too much free time to think about indie rap releases. The answer was usually “licensing.”

And then, May 16 happened:

I’d been waiting a smooth two years for this small victory, but because “this summer” means basically nothing, I went on to forget all about Curren$y’s promise to release Pilot Talk: Trilogy on Spotify. But while shuffling through this past Friday’s new releases and playing FIFA as cool kids do on Saturday evenings, those lazy “Breakfast” horns came strolling out of the speakers, as Curren$y mimed a PSA:

some of the good things that weed can do …

And just like that, I got my wish.