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Curren$y- A Smooth Flight With No Turbulence

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I’ve derived pleasure and found merit in every phase of rap/hip-hop over the years. The goofy-Biz Markie, Tone Loc, The Beastie Boys. The gangster- N.W.A., TuPac, Biggie. The socially conscious- Common, Talib Kweli, Lupe Fiasco. The Nerd- Kid Cudi, Kanye, Childish Gambino. Hell, I even liked Lil Wayne’s nonsense until recently, when a friend and I debated his legitimacy and came to the agreement that nobody would be listening to any of his crap in 5 years sooo… might as well not start now. I’m also NOT a Drake hater like some folks. Drake’s music has its place… in a gynecologist’s office… during a pap smear. He’s what I refer to as uterus rap because without one, it’s impossible to appreciate his efforts.

What I’m really always on the lookout for is that feeling, the one that I got the first time I heard Big Boi and Andre 3000… “Forever pimpin’, never slippin’, that’s how it is…” To me, no other group or solo artist since Outkast has ever fully encompassed the gamut of perfect hooks, great lyrics or perpetual cool like they did. When they split up, I spent years lost in a sea of Rick Ross and Soulja Boy melancholy. I can only try to describe what truly sets them apart, because it’s organic, intangible and thankfully, it has returned.

This time his name is Curren$y. With beats that creep in, ascending your brain to 30,000 feet, that’s the Jet Life. It’s a fictitious world that Curren$y makes you believe you’re a part of in every one of his songs, the same way Outkast made me believe I could be rollin’ down the strip on vogues, comin’ up slammin’ Cadillac doors. A scenario that’s unarguably much more exciting than my current reality of dying slowly under fluorescent lights in a cubicle.

My friend and I got tickets months ago, and as we arrived at the sold out show at the Masquerade on June 8th, we were beyond pumped. The “Hell” room was just half full at 7:45 p.m. as our D.J. (E.F. Cuttin) and anonymous (I can’t remember his name) Hypeman got the crowd charged up. If you have any familiarity with the Jet Life, than it will come as no surprise that we were completely enveloped in pot smoke from the moment we stepped in the joint. Pun intended. If it were only like that at the office, it might actually make my cubicide a bit more fun. However, by 9:10, we’d all grown weary of listening to anything Cuttin’ was spinning on the 1’s and 2’s and the Hypeman wasn’t working anymore. Which, incidentally, how does one snag that gig? I picture the guidance counselor pulling this dude aside in high school after getting people amped up over chicken nugget day in the lunchroom line…”You know kid, you seem to exhibit an aptitude for getting people crunk while they wait…”

They finally started rolling out the baggage handlers of The Jets tour around 9:15 to a VERY lukewarm response. The first guy, I think his name was Kustom…Jesus, I felt sorry for him as he was BARELY tolerated. I half expected the dude from “Showtime at the Apollo” to come and sweep him off the stage. Next up was Nesby Phips…”eh” was at least a better reaction than the lead in. When Hypeman came back out though, and announced a surprise set by Styles P was on its way, the place went bananas.

There was a brief glitch at the beginning when Styles took the stage – no music. A true professional, he just started freestylin’ a cappella and made everyone remember why they had their jets in the air. Blazing through hits like “Locked Up” and “Good Times” set the perfect tone for Jets co-pilots Young Roddy and Smoke DZA to come on afterwards and kill it.

Lights went down around 10:45 p.m. while everyone continued rolling blunts in the dark awaiting our flight briefing from the Captain. Playing classic cuts from Outkast and Goodie Mob teased the mood, and jets went up again as E.F. Cuttin was replaced by a beautiful woman. In fact, there were gorgeous females of all ethnicities dressed tastefully, loitering on stage, playing pool and looking too busy to be there.

When Curren$y finally landed, I could only see recordings of him through hundreds of cell phones that were better than mine. I mean, admittedly, I’m a hater because the resolution on my Android sucks balls, but don’t you miss when people just held up lighters? And to the guy that was holding up an iPAD- you’re ridiculous.

Just as we’d hoped though, the 31-year-old New Orleans native tore through some of our favorite tunes from his landmark album Pilot Talk, such as the song “King Kong”, with such precision it was easy to understand why his new album is called Stoned Immaculate. I don’t know what he’s like sober, but he’s flawless when he’s high. I can’t even count how many times I’ve rapped “King Kong ain’t got shit on me” while battling the evil copy machine at work. 

Dipping into Covert Coup, his LP produced by Alchemist, we were served up “BBS”. I kept hoping for “The Type” and “Scottie Pippen” but he made up for it when he did an impromptu performance of “Breakfast” because an audience member held up a sign begging him to do so.

It was also about that time when a young girl in the crowd passed out and Captain Curren$y stopped the show as he had security lift her out of the fray and carry her backstage. Her accomplice, another young lady, was not about to leave and miss the show until our main man told her “Hey sweetheart, I know you’re trying to be a #1 fan but right now, I need you to be a #1 friend. Please come back here and make sure your girl is o.k.” She was still reluctant until he promised to let her return to the spot she’d staked out since the doors opened, only then allowing security to lift her to the stage where he gave her a big hug, thanking her. Pure class.

We strapped in and took off again for cuts from my personal favorite disc, Pilot Talk II. Kicking it off with “Famous” and a boozy hook that steers his 57 Chevy to the drive in… “This is a scary movie I’m in, but I do it for all my folk who genuinely want me to win.”

He busted out other incredible tracks from “Jet Files”, “Jet World Order” “Stoned Immaculate” and Muscle Cars, which gave Young Roddy and Smoke DZA some time to shine. Then it all circled back to his first offering from This Ain’t No Mixtape, when he blew everyone’s mind on “Elevator Musik”.

Just barely collecting myself from mobbing and bouncing more than anyone ever has to literal elevator music, I achieved full altitude when he did my absolute favorite “Michael Knight” and the entire crowd returned magic spirit fingers in his direction on the chorus.

As we landed safely at our destination, the Captain instructed his passengers to hang out with him for a while so he could meet everyone and sign anything they wanted. We waited for about 15 minutes, but the sea of fans was endless, pouring a steady stream of Jordans, t-shirts and hats his way. No way of being sure since we left, but I suspect that he stayed for every last fan in that line. In my mind, after giving easily one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen (in any music genre), he’s one of the greats. I’m not proclaiming that Curren$y is necessarily the savior of rap, but he’s most certainly an apostle to what looks like a brighter future.

Concert Reviews

Jonah Parzen-Johnson at Lilypad

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Jonah Parzen-Johnson has an innate ability to make the baritone sax sound like bagpipes, and maybe that’s why I cried.

Mostly I cried because Jonah tells radiant stories with his saxophone and analog synth, working the brass and pedals to recreate the framework which surrounds his album Remember When Things Were Better Tomorrow: Parzen-Johnson wanted to make “something of myself that’s for everybody else.”

Jonah opened his set with “Stay There, I’ll Come to You,” showcasing the harmony between synth and sax right off the bat. With haunting lilts, the two combined into a ribbon of melody, pulsating inside the ear as well as the heart. Much like the song’s title, Jonah was the one approaching the audience as an experimental troubadour of tête-à-tête.

The back stories and thoughts behind each song tied in so well with the raw, almost throaty sax, developing such strong, emotional resonance with the musical layers. The skeleton shook.

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Concert Reviews

Speedy Ortiz “riiiiise above and gliiiiiide away” at The Sinclair

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The Sinclair was a packed house Wednesday night for the Speedy Ortiz CD release party; as a hometown gig for the Northampton, MA-based band, kinetic warmth buzzed through friends and fans alike as Sadie Dupuis and crew played their freshly-release Foil Deer track-by-track.

What’s a party without some guests, though? That’s where Krill and Mitski come in.

Krill kicked off the night with some tracks from A Distant Fist Unclenching, other goods from Lucky Leaves. Lead singer/bassist Jonah Furman brought to mind early (read: good) Billy Corgan, which I’m not sure he will appreciate. But I think he’ll appreciate this: I couldn’t stop laughing because then I kept thinking about Marilyn Manson telling Billy Corgan that he looked like Charlie Brown.

Opening with “Theme from Krill,” the Boston trio has a knack for rhythm and melody that burrows into your brain. The dreamy bleakness of “Purity of Heart.”  The discordant garage rock and hiccupping guitar and warbly Scooter-ness of “Foot.” Krill’s sound is a good, comfy noise that keeps you wiggling and all that good stuff. Be sure to catch the band at Boston Calling.

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Concert Reviews

Years & Years at Royale Boston

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During winter storm Juno, UK electro pop group Years & Years were forced to cancel the first show of their two-night stint in New York City back in January. After the snow finally melted, they made the rounds again this past March, playing several shows in California, South by Southwest before finally landing in Boston.

Due to popular demand, the show was moved from The Sinclair to the Royale in downtown’s Theater District.

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