This year has seen a spate of strong releases from distinctive, detail-oriented rappers who subvert the usual brag-and-bluster formula with their obsessive focus on mundane particulars. First was Action Bronson's Blue Chips, which fetishized food with the same mania Clipse reserves for cocaine, followed by efforts from Heems, Big K.R.I.T., and Killer Mike and El-P that have, respectively, fixated on pop-culture trivia, incipient activism, and radical paranoia. Into this pack falls the first proper album from Curren$y, the New Orleans rapper and former Lil Wayne No. 2, who's diverged from his Young Money partner with quotidian tales of smoking weed, watching sports, and eating chips.
Curren$y isn't as daring as any of the abovementioned MCs, and his style falls more in line with Wiz Khalifa or Wale, both frequent guests who show up on The Stoned Immaculate. All three obsess over weed, cars, and women, but they also take care to frame their excess in a somewhat realistic framework. This is significant in a world where prestige is less and less about invocations of street smarts or toughness than drawing up increasingly inflated caricatures: Rick Ross, one of the biggest names in hip-hop right now, is a cartoon ogre wreathed in grandiose signifers; Kanye West has swung from socially conscious worrywort to hyper-wealthy eccentric in a genre that's more defined by fantasy than ever.
This has made room for rappers on the smaller end of the spectrum, who make similarly boastful claims about their status but couch them in a world that's relatable; Curren$y is just as likely to tout his NFL Sunday Ticket packages as he is stores of cars and diamonds. He's the "forefounder of lifestyle rap," as he notes on "Capitol," a status he attempts to secure by attacking copycats and name-checking Oldsmobile 442s, Ozium, and Zig-Zags. "No Squares" details the destruction of a Lamborghini on a motorcross ramp, a scenario that seems more like a video-game goof than any illusion of actual prestige.
Moments like these pop up sporadically, but the problems here relate to another issue at the core of modern hip-hop: The Stoned Immaculate is a full-length album that feels markedly inferior to its preceding mixtapes. This is especially evident because the album is Curren$y's major label debut, yet it seems as casually tossed off as the worst of the four tapes he put out last year. So while his flow is still limber and his production is still solid, there are comparably less interesting moments to be found here.
This could potentially be ascribed to the idea that mixtapes are killing the marquee rap album, that the format is falling prey to the decline of the album in general, with waves of songs replacing any sort of featured package. It might be said that the same democratization that made room for the bumper crop so far this year is only hastening this condition. But the issue with The Stoned Immaculate is that it's a lazy and undercooked album, a fact that larger trends can only have so much to do with. When Curren$y isn't detail-oriented, he's routine, his laundry list of weird possessions devolving into the same aspirational blather as every other second-rate wannabe. Too often the album falls into the trap of ordinariness, gliding on reputation when it should be tilting toward idiosyncrasy.