Curren$y & The Alchemist - Continuance

Curren$y & The Alchemist Revisit Classicist Tropes on Continuance

The pair's latest in a series of well-received collaborations is the hip-hop equivalent of cool jazz.

Curren$y & The Alchemist
Continuance (Jet Life Recordings/ALC Records)

Continuance is the latest in a series of well-received collaborations between Curren$y and the Alchemist; their last project was 2019’s Fetti with Freddie Gibbs. The duo’s music engages an audience in thrall to classicist tropes, from syllable-rich slanguage to sampled beats. In recent years, the Alchemist’s drums and bass lines have grown increasingly soft and unobtrusive, turning his productions into the hip-hop equivalent of cool jazz. On his best work, like his Haram project with Armand Hammer, he uncovers innovative twists on the formula, like heightening the ominous qualities of his melodies. His worst projects, like his Carry the Fire instrumental 12-inch and The Food Villain with Action Bronson, sound like hypebeast dross, mere fodder for colorway vinyl to flip online. Continuance lies somewhere in the middle: It’s not as impressive as Curren$y and Alchemist’s 2011 Covert Coup peak, but it’s pleasing to the ear. Curren$y flips through rhymes in a sharp New Orleans cadence like he’s working a gaming controller, tossing off casual observations about maintaining a successful career, weathering the pandemic, and enjoying expensive things in life. “My son is too young to know that he a prince/I’m so grateful I had him when I was rich,” he raps on “Kool & the Gang.” Meanwhile, Alchemist inserts dialogue from sundry films and other sources into his tracks. The effect is akin to smoking a blunt and happily dozing off to a Netflix movie. The guests include Boldy James, hotly tipped Detroit rapper Babyface Ray, Larry June, Styles P, Havoc, and Wiz Khalifa.

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Lil Yachty, Let’s Start Here

Lil Yachty’s Let’s Start Here has earned notice for its decidedly space-y and vaporous tones, the result of a collaboration with Chairlift’s Patrick Wimberly, Jeremy “SadPony” Raisen and his brother Jeremiah (best known for work with Lizzo and Yves Tumor), and bassist Jacob Portrait of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Yachty aims for Gen-Z psychedelic fervor: think Travis Scott, Tame Impala, and Swae Lee’s Swaecation half of Rae Sremmurd’s SR3MM. On “The Black Seminole,” Diana Gordon squalls as if mimicking Clare Torry in Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky.” For “I’ve Officially Lost Vision,” Yachty harmonizes, “I did way too much drugs, I’ve been swimming in space.” Texturally, Let’s Start Here is ear candy. Who doesn’t love laconic, shoegaze-y guitars? But it also seems banal. Given groundwork laid by similar explorers such as Andre 3000 and Kid Cudi, Yachty doesn’t commit much of himself. The predominant theme in this Urban Outfitters-bound soundtrack is molly-tinged dream-pop euphoria and coy sentiments like, “Meanwhile/You’re done/Had a little too much fun/I cannot stop touching you” on “We Saw the Sun.” Early praise for Let’s Start Here from industry mandarins such as Questlove and Apple Music’s Ebro Darden may have prompted backlash from a segment of rap fandom that objects to any whiff of maximalist stench. But give Yachty credit: He knows how to assemble and sequence an hour of shambolic melodic charms, even if his dusted symphony feels more like a wispy breeze than a desert storm. Guest vocalists include Justine Skye, Fousheé, and Daniel Caesar. Other producers include Jam City and Magdalene Bay. Tory Lanez’s name is in the credits for “Paint the Sky.” Do with that information what you will. Quality Control/Motown Records.

Thes One, Farewell, My Friend

In an L.A. Times interview with Oliver Wang, Thes One described former group People Under the Stairs as defined by their “outsider-ness.” He and high-school friend Double K, who passed away in 2021, made music informed by a community of rare breaks, and that sense of not being the “cool kids” in L.A.’s turn-of-the-Aughts indie-rap scene inspired bristling, ornery raps, adding tension to the sunshine melodies. Yet time heals old grievances, and Farewell, My Friend, a tribute to Double K, is unabashedly soft and yearning. The filtered jazz-funk loop on “Young Mike and Chris Floating Free” and the disco breeze of “Mike and Chris Leave for Their First Tour” are rendered in a nostalgic glow for those halcyon years. Musically, they’re a reminder of how crucial Thes One’s sound has been to the “chill hop” aesthetic, and why he deserves to be mentioned with more celebrated beat makers like Fat Jon and Nujabes. Sequenced like a tone poem, Farewell, My Friend is nevertheless familiar territory for Thes; even as he put out PUTS albums, he also issued instrumental projects like 2007’s Lifestyle Marketing. Double K’s edgy yet good-natured thug-isms are missed. The album includes contributions from keyboardist Kat010 and bassist Headnodic, both formerly with Bay Area group Crown City Rockers; drummer Paul Caruso, and guitarist Saint Ezekiel. Their musicianship take center stage on the second half of the album, particularly “The Bell Tolls for People Under the Stairs” and “Survivor Syndrome.” Thes One released Farewell, My Friend on his label, Piecelock 70.