The stoned couch dweller Curren$y puts down his game controller, gets off his couch, and heads out into a dark universe on Canal Street Confidential. At 34, Shante Scott Franklin, aka Curren$y, is somewhat of a late bloomer. He’s roamed for nearly a decade in periphery of hip-hop, never reaching a mass audience and perhaps victimized by hitching his ride to that of Lil’ Wayne’s fading star. Curren$y is best known for his Pilot Talk trilogy that’s built on slice-of-life stories that are glued together by producer Ski Beats. Their third collaboration was released less than a year ago. Together they crafted a soundtrack that celebrated those lazy, green-tinted, sunny summer days. This dealt Curren$y his just acclaim despite landing him only a modest following. On Canal Street Confidential, the sun sets as Franklin roams in a darker, yet still green-tinted terrain, that tries too hard for its own good to find that mainstream audience Curren$y was owed with Pilot Talk.
Canal Street Confidential is produced almost entirely by Purps, whose aesthetic mirrors that of Ski Beats. The hazy atmospherics still reign supreme, but absent are the jazz- and soul-based hooks that made Curren$y’s music such a transcendent place to get lost. Purps builds the album’s foundation with Auto-Tuned R&B grooves. His vision is brought to life with an impressive guest list that includes Future, Lloyd, and Ty Dolla $ign. It’s a stylistic choice that will no doubt thrill some, but also alienate those who got on board with Curren$y via Pilot Talk.
CSC begins with the familiar flick of a lighter and sounds of inhaling that announces the record as typical Currenc$y. However, “Drive By’s” horror movie beat centered on disorienting chiming bells sets a different tone, especially when paired with Future’s guest verse as he speak-sings the lines “I know some gangbangers, they relate/ When I pull up, it’s a murder.” This is a grittier affair with its edges smoothed by the bedroom-based R&B grooves. Curren$y’s laid-back rapping style at times gets lost in this production choice. The album’s single, “Bottom of the Bottle”, which is also CSC’s lowlight, showcases the album’s shortcomings with some cringe-worthy lyrics epitomized by Lil’ Wayne’s guest spot when he rhymes, “She throw it at a nigga like a snowball/ And I’m a give her something she can choke on.” If not obvious by the lyrics, CSC’s themes are chasing tail and ingesting almost as many drugs as distributing.
Wiz Khalifa stops by on album highlight “Winning” where Khalifa and Curren$y reflect back on their humble beginnings. The track is particularly effective when Curren$y tells the story of the broke artists (save for their $300 set aside for Sour Diesel) rifling through their couch to scrounge up $12 for cheap Chinese food. It’s storytelling of this nature that highlights Curren$y’s strengths as a rapper but unfortunately rarely makes an appearance. Instead, the album is littered with rap clichés featuring thinly veiled drug references best exemplified on “Boulders” when he rhymes, “I could move a boulder through my Boost Mobile” and continues on with such unimaginative clichés as “Fuck bitches, stack your riches.” Rhymes like this seem beneath the man who showcased his lyrical dexterity on tracks like “Address”, “Breakfast”, and “Airborne Aquarium”.
Canal Street Confidential is Curren$y’s major label stab at a larger audience and with that he makes some rather obvious artistic sacrifices. 2015 brought us the timely and lyrically dense album To Pimp a Butterfly where Kendrick Lamar proved an artist need not make concessions to rise to the top. With lyrics like “Baby only if the pussy tight/ Can you spend the night,” it’s clear that Franklin is not taking this approach toward stardom. At 34 years old, Curren$y should be better than this. What we have here is an artist in cruise control taking a premature victory lap. If the Pilot Talk trilogy is Curren$y’s sky-high flight of fancy, then Canal Street Confidential feels more like a cab ride the day after a late night. “Roll one up for them haters,” Franklin rhymes on Canal Street Confidential. With that I ask, does anyone have a light?
Essential Tracks: “Winning”