Sequels are never supposed to outdo the original. It’s a longstanding and nearly infallible rule of music and film. But ask any horror-flick nerd and they’ll probably tell you that although Friday the 13th is great, Friday the 13th, Part 2 is the real deal. And ask any rap fan to pick between Raekwon’s two Only Built 4 Cuban Linx albums, and you might be surprised at the results.
Same goes for Curren$y now. Pilot Talk II, his second album in four months, manages to just barely outshine Pilot Talk. It doesn’t throw any curveballs into the formula, necessarily, but it pulls off similar tricks with a bit more consistency and with a new, if faint, urgency we didn’t see back in July.
Opener “Airborne Aquarium” throws down the gauntlet right away, as Spitta settles into his usual labyrinthine flow but delivers it with a burst of energy we don’t usually get from him these days. Instead of the smoked-out shuffle of many of his rhymes, here he seems on a quest. “I’m getting hella-mail from jail,” he starts, and seems determined to do right by those writing him, cutting through the weed smoke to spit line after brilliant line. That song leads into the equally impressive, guitar-tangled “Michael Knight,” and “Montreax” rounds out a stunning trio to open the record.
From there Pilot Talk II settles into the flow we expect from Spitta. The smoky live band elements — including a string of funky-as-hell bass lines — makes each song rumble. Even the soft rock saxophone on “Famous” sounds bad as hell here. Over those dark beats, Spitta runs through his flow like the entire album is one shifting song. In fact, the hook just seem to be thrown in here to let him (and us) catch our breath.
That flow, built on intricate wordplay and subtle images, avoids the easy punch line or the loud vitriol. Hearing these new Curren$y albums, it’s so hard to imagine that Spitta was once a No Limit soldier, considering what he’s doing here is so much more intricate, less intentionally abrasive, and far more compelling. The Pilot Talk albums also offer a refreshing alternative to the constructed persona of a Rick Ross or the self-aware eccentricities of this other album that came out Nov. 22. Spitta settles into his grind like a man doing what he wants. There’s no pretension here: He punks other rappers, goes on about women and cars and (of course) smoking weed. But as smooth as it is, there’s nothing easy about his delivery. It reveals new images, new snippets of wordplay, with each listen.
Pilot Talk II is brilliant because it builds on its excellent predecessor, but finds just a touch more focus. No beats slip here — there are one or two that feel light on Pilot Talk — and every now and again the energy amps up just enough to offer some variety to the mix. With the exception of Raekwon’s appearance at the end of the record, this is Spitta’s show, with his crew backing him. “Tell your dogs they should beware of us,” he snaps off on “Michael Knight,” and it’s a moment of quiet intensity that lets you know this is no longer a comeback. With Pilot Talk II, Curren$y is all the way back, and picking up steam (and weed smoke) as he goes.