My conversation with Curren$y last Wednesday (March 23) never strayed far from weed. We sat down in a makeshift den at a Warner Music Group office in New York and he immediately snatched up a plastic bag of weed from the glass coffee table, delighted that no one took it. He implored his publicist to make sure their driver wouldn’t mind his smoking on their way to lunch, “Please, just ask him to be cool and I will roll a window down, I will buy a Lysol from Duane Reade if he want me to, I will Scotchgard his shit. Please.”
Curren$y’s career includes chapters with Master P, Lil Wayne, and Dame Dash as well as an independent run that included eight free mixtapes and two albums on Amalgam Digital. He released Pilot Talk and Pilot Talk II, which were distributed by Def Jam, with Dash. He also did a mixtape with Wiz Khalifa. Despite a career worthy of a three hour documentary, Curren$y is as nonchalant as a college kid and his music reflects that.
His new project is another sharp career turn. He’s teaming up with Alchemist to release Covert Coupe for free on April 20 through WMG. In our interview, he talks about leveraging hip-hop blogs, his group with Mos Def and Jay Electronica, and the “Choppa Style” video.
ML: You’ve come a long way since [the 2008 XXL Freshmen cover], right?
Curren$y: I guess. I’m still on the grind though. I still feel like that just happened even though clearly it didn’t. They just had the Freshmen cover concert yesterday.
ML: Were you there?
Curren$y: I got there at the last minute. It was like the end of Yelawolf’s set. Everybody was coming out when I was about to walk in. So I was like, ‘Well, shit.’ I just high fived a couple people and got back in the car.
ML: You often get lumped in with the younger generation of rappers. Why do you think that is?
Curren$y: Because it took a minute for that lane to be carved. That groundwork of that took years of waiting even for the game to be ready for something like that. And now, all the music doesn’t have to be the drug music, the gun music to make it. You can kind of just be chillin’. So, it’s easier now. But that time – 19, 20, 21, all that – there was no lane for me at that point. All of that time, it was me carving the lane and waiting for the world to even be receptive.
ML: So you fit in better with the younger generation?
Curren$y: Nah, I fit in with myself. What it is is, the newer music, they already don’t have to be the studio gangsters and all that shit to get in position. There’s already a lane for a cool person. So now, it’s OK. That’s all. It’s easier. It’s a lane carved out for you to be able to just chill, maybe smoke your weed, watch some TV and only rap about that. It’s a more receptive climate now. So had it been, you would’ve known what I was doing at that point. I would’ve been younger doing it. There would have been more of a stage for me. I had to wait until it was ready. I had to do my shit.
I was trying to do that in every instance I been in and that’s what took so long. I was on No Limit Records rapping about original Jordans in the midst of still talking about whatever they were talking about, which could entail a gun or some drugs or something else that I wasn’t even into. People had to wait and it’s a blessing. I’m happy for that work being done, because it’s great to see motherfuckers just coming in early. I think the Odd Future shit is amazing, because I’m like, they got time to run, they don’t have to wait for motherfuckers to stop calling them strange and shit. Because it’s OK now. Motherfuckers are receptive to shit being original. Original’s not making you shy away. Because all the music sounds the same now, so as soon as something sounds original, people like, ‘Let me have some of that.’ Because it’s all fucked up. It’s so fucked that it’s perfect now for motherfuckers that stay in they own lane.
ML: But people don’t realize you’ve been in the game for awhile. You’re a veteran. How old were you in the “Choppa Style” video?
Curren$y: Fuck. I don’t know. I saw that video and I looked like a little fat-faced baby and I had a doo rag on. What was that video, like in the 80s? [laughs] I’m fuckin’ with you, man. I had a doo rag on and a backwards jersey. Not even a Emmit Smith jersey, it was a backwards No Limit jersey that had my name.
ML: And you were on the screen for like one second, right?
Curren$y: Yeah because I was like the new little dude. They sprinkled me in. [talks to Mousa, his manager] [back to me] They kicked me out of my hotel for smoking pot this morning.
ML: Which hotel?
Curren$y: The Flatotel. It’s a nice one, but they’re not fuckin’ with me. It’s a good joint.
ML: Did they kick you out in the middle of the night?
Curren$y: Nah, they waited until I got here. [laughs] They waited until I got here to notify me of that shit.
ML: Usually, the so-called Internet rappers are overnight sensations. They get ten million YouTube views in three months and then they get signed the next week.
Curren$y: Yeah, I don’t like that.
ML: You’re the only one I can think of who’s really slowly built himself up.
Curren$y: It’s a slow burn, man.
ML: So what was your approach? Was that something you did on purpose?
Curren$y: Yeah, because you want to be in it for a minute and anything that get big that fast, it pops like it’s a bubble. You start off small, you get super big, and then you’re no more. That’s just the nature of it anyway. I want this process to take longer. You hurry up and get to this, it’s over for you. So the slow burn is the better deal. You gotta come into this knowing that it’s not for you forever. There’s no way that you can do it. Motherfuckers are so in a rush to get here that they pop. You gotta stretch this time out and make this time the most enjoyable time. Right now, I’m living and loving it. It’s just the best shit in the world right now.
ML: Over this really slow burn, did you ever feel hopeless? Did you feel like the career was stagnant?
Curren$y: Nah, because it didn’t take long. I left Cash Money in 2007 and I was putting tapes out every month. I put one out — I pressed that one up physically. I pressed Independence Day up, because I hadn’t had a grasp of the blogs and shit and what I could really do, what could happen. So I just pressed up 3,000 copies myself and I sent some to a few stores I know in Miami and then I put out the second one and that’s when somebody sent me a link. Like, ‘Yo, read this,’ and it was a write-up about the tape. And then that made me start googling the tape title and then I found all this shit. I found all the sites and shit like that.
ML: Do you remember what tape it was?
Curren$y: It was Higher than 30,000 Feet. I want to say I read about it on 2dopeboyz or OnSMASH. And then after that, I found all the blogs. As shit was heating up and I was putting tapes out every month, I would notice all the blogs would pick them up, but I started to go to the blogs to see which ones I fuck with. I’m trying to see what kind of music you posting, what else you posting as far as fashion and all this kind of shit, and then I found out my favorite ones. Then I really started recording more because I was seeing my work. The Internet was like instant gratification because you put the record out and within minutes it’s like, ‘it’s hot’ or ‘it fuckin’ sucks.’ That’s really what you need to keep going. Everybody like, ‘Yo just hear me out, hear me out.’ The Internet is the perfect ‘hear me out,’ if a motherfucker wants to hear you.
ML: It’s like market research.
Curren$y: Yeah. So, that was the motivation for me to keep going. I couldn’t feel hopeless, because every time I did something, a real person would grab it and take their time to put it on their site. They’re up until 5:00 AM putting shit on their site and they give a fuck about my shit enough to put the zip file, the artwork, all that shit on their site — in the midst of putting a Raekwon record. That’s what was tripping me up. The Internet shit was blowing me away at that. I was like ‘What the fuck?’ because that was like magazines to me. That’s the TV, that’s it. The Internet rearranged everything. Internet killed the video star. You could do whatever you want to do. You go find whatever videos you want. You don’t have to deal with program directors or anything.
ML: I think the first one I posted was Welcome to the Winner’s Circle.
Curren$y: I know, I know. I know a DJ in my city, he sent me the link when y’all did that, because he fucks with y’all site tough tough tough tough tough. And, yo, I don’t know. It was like– you posted it?
Curren$y: Did you start it off with– [I start smiling] Yeah.
ML: Yeah. [Ed. note: I knocked the tape’s artwork and his previous tape. Read the post here.]
Curren$y: Yeah, alright. Because I was like, ‘How am I supposed to feel about that?’ Yeah, absolutely, I remember. Cool, cool. [We shake hands] That’s good money right there.
ML: You’ve been on No Limit and Cash Money/Young Money. What did you take away from each of those?
Curren$y: Just empire building skills. Honestly, from [Master P], I saw what he did with branding in the beginning. What people bought into. What sold the whole No Limit thing. It wasn’t so much the raps. People want to see a successful move. Just anything, a collection of something and it’s all good, everybody’s cool. So I saw that and I saw how important it was to use your company name. He kept his company name. As opposed to individuals, it’s more about your company. Because if your company stays strong, no matter what you bring in and funnel through that, it’s going to do well, because it’s a good company, it’s right. As opposed to you focusing on you, because once they don’t like me no more, it’s ‘Fuck the Jets’ and then that’s fucked up for [Young Roddy] and [Trademark da Skydiver] and everybody else. If the brand is strong, you have to listen to Curren$y. ‘That’s cool, these guys are awesome, listen to that.’ You push that.
What I got from the Young Money shit, I saw how much music was being recorded. It just doesn’t hurt to record a gang of shit, because it’s only what you do.
ML: You’ve released a lot of music in a short period of time. Do you worry about over-saturating?
Curren$y: Nah, because the people who could feel like I’m over-saturating the scene or whatever are people who aren’t fans of mine anyway. I like Max B. There’s no such thing as too much. I have 3,000 Max Bsongs in my iTunes. If he put a song out everyday when he was popping, I would’ve downloaded it and don’t give a fuck. You won’t get burnt out if it’s what you like. My music is only for the people that I fuck with. It’s only for my friends, people that really listen to me. I know how they feel about it. It’s like free weed. ‘Oh no, don’t give me more. I’m over-saturated with the weed, stop giving me free pot.’ Nobody gonna do that.
ML: Meet anyone cool at SXSW?
Curren$y: Puff Daddy. Diddy was chillin’, that was cool.
ML: Is Puff up on your stuff?
Curren$y: Yeah, he was at my set just hanging out. I was shocked, it was cool.
ML: What happened to Center Edge Territory?
Curren$y: Yo, there is no album-
ML: But is there more music?
Curren$y: Yeah, that’s the whole thing. I’ve said it. It’s not an album, it’s music that will be released when the game is in despair. See, we gave ‘em a record. People still listen to it. So it’s OK. When it’s all the way needed, when it’s like 30 days of night and people are dying in the street, I’ll be like, ‘Alright, my bad.’
ML: How many more songs are there?
Curren$y: I don’t know. We’re friends, so we’re recording. It’s an infinite amount of songs as long as we’re buddies.
ML: I want to read you a quote from our last interview. I asked you about major labels and you said, “Nobody is really prepared to understand that I’m not going to make the radio single.” And you also said, “I can’t force that on the labels. I can’t force them to put me on. Rather than even trying to compromise with the labels or take a lowball, I just decided to do it independent.” So what made you comfortable with WMG?
Curren$y: Everything that I just said, they weren’t worrying about it. They weren’t worrying about the shiny radio record. They were just like, ‘Yo, do that shit.’ So that was it. That was my whole thing. I was like, ‘I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to sit in anything. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing. And if anybody believes in that enough to write me a check for a million dollars, then let em go.’ Because they saw it how I see it. They were like, ‘You can be just as big as you want to be and not change shit. You just need certain things.’ I needed to be able to do a gang of interviews and all that kind of shit. You need to be accessible and shit that they can help me do. We just hustling together.
ML: [You and Alchemist] kind of clash because you’re laid back and he’s all about hardbody beats. Where was the middle ground? What is this going to sound like?
Curren$y: [snakes hand through the air] It’s gonna sound like that. It sounds like smoke trails like that, because it changes.
ML: You and Alch are the funniest rappers I know, so what’s the atmosphere in the studio?
Curren$y: Just a few jokes and a gang of weed. It’s a good time. We did the whole project in, what, four days? I did three days in LA and then one day I caught up with him out here and did two more records and that was it. It’s done, he’s mixing it right now.
ML: Last night you said, “New York like a muh fugga… Adventure time…” Where’d you go?
Curren$y: I tried to go to B.B. Kings. Got there at the last minute. I went to the hotel. Found my vegetation dealer guy [taps bag of weed]. Scrambled for menus. Got a $30 hamburger brought to my room. That was insane. Ate half of it. Watched Adult Swim. I smoked a joint out my window. Then I went to sleep. I woke up, I smoked half a joint in the bathroom with the window open and then an hour and a half later, I left to head over here and a security guard dude walks past me and he smells my jacket and he’s like ‘OK, you smoked weed. We’re gonna double lock his doors.’ So, I don’t know. Adventure time.
ML: What was the last thing you bought?
Curren$y: A rosary.