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Transitional but Good
on July 8, 2012
Shante "Curren$y" Franklin has maybe the best butter drawl ever put on tape over beats, his verses melting over soulful, often-funky beats not at all unlike how Snoop's words did back when Dr. Dre and The D.O.C. were still holding his hand. His background set in NOLA's famous Third Ward - home not only all the big No Limit Records names from the late 90s, but also Louis Armstrong and Dr. John - Curren$y has always had a lot of real life fodder, and thus a lot to say, on his records. As his ear for production gets stronger and stronger, and his drawl more endearing, expectations for Franklin grow, so much so that his fans now stand almost no chance of being satisfied with Stoned Immaculate, Curren$y's first major release through Warner Bros. and most ambitious record yet.
Three of his last four albums, all of which were released in the last two or so years, already considered to be minor modern classics, Curren$y decided to switch up his formula for his major debut. Each of those four records were short, recorded in a matter of days, light on the guests spots and, more or less, produced by one beatmaker. Stoned couldn't be more different. It's not that the record is long or even overly complex, but it's definitely a big project album. Lots of guests, lots of producers and lots of verses and hooks and styles. Rather than taking two days to record like, say, last year's great Weekend at Burnie's did, Stoned was recorded over several months, Franklin even having to utilize the Powers-That-Be at Warners to make some of the needed connections. The result is a diverse, detailed album that, while still a solid display of Franklin's vocal ability, feels far less cohesive than Burnie's or the two Pilot Talk installments. Summer classics, those.
As is always the case with Curren$y, repeat listens do reward. No, you likely won't love Stoned like you maybe did Franklin's other recent recordings, but there's much here to grab on to if you like low-key, soul-influenced hip-hop records with, again, butter vox. And, of course, with each Curren$y disc you get at least that one new classic. In this case, that song is the Tone-P-produced "Chandelier," a hook-heavy track that sees Curren$y really stepping up his storytelling game. Another big standout, and possible new hip-hop classic, is "Sunroof," produced by Curren$y regular Monsta Beatz. Like most of the tracks Curren$y selects, the otherwise good production features thin, tinny, slap drums. Unfortunate.
So no, Stoned Immaculate isn't the new hip-hop classic so many hoped it would be. What made past Curren$y discs so great was the simplicity and cohesiveness of the records. Here we have 12 guest vocalists and 11 producers over 13 tracks. Gag. Franklin doesn't even open up his own album, leaving that duty to lesser emcee Wale, who dominates the first track from the jump. Big mistake. Hopefully Franklin gets over the new power that accompanied his first real major label contract and refocuses himself. Personally, I'd like to see the guy do a short album with no guest vocalists and one producer. Might I suggest Organized Noize, Madlib or even No I.D., who produced the whole of last year's criminally underrated new Common album, The Dreamer / The Believer? Something tells me the lukewarm reaction to this just-decent-enough disc will put a fire under Franklin's stoner ass. Regardless, he remains one of the best mainstream emcees currently releasing records, and Stoned Immaculate has some good summertime stoner jams.
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