The past month has been a pretty great one for rap. New Orleans weed aficionado and sometime Lil Wayne sidekick Curren$y released Pilot Talk, featuring a terrific single, "The Day," where Jay Electronica waxes "young, black, intelligent, elegant, blasé," and Mos Def sounds like his jaw is still numb from oral surgery. Barely-reformed L.A. gangbanger The Game dropped the ridiculously star-studded Brake Lights mixtape, which features a song called "Phantom of the Opera" and another one called "HaHaHaHaHa." Kanye joined Twitter, which I guess is a good thing for hip-hop in some obscure way. And some dude named Curtains --excuse me, CurT@!n$ (which could be pronounced "Curt at bangin' dollas," if you parse it right)--put out a little downloadable nugget of thuggery called The Dissertation (The Wu Thesis).
Roughly put, said thesis is that CurT@!n$, a Brooklyn rapper with no known Wu-Tang affiliation (which is kind of impressive, given that like a third of the eastern seaboard has some Wu-Tang affiliation), could have been a member of the Wu-Tang Clan. To argue his point, he spits semi-conscious witticisms over a handful of beats carefully poached from the Clan's catalog. To be sure, those beats give him a huge leg up: anyone'll sound good over the regal bounce of Ghostface's "Fish" or the triumphant horn flourish of Raekwon's "State of Grace." But CurT@!n$ nails the freewheeling Wu persona consistently, keeping his rhymes at once gritty and refined, free-associative and deliberate:
I slaughter beats quick, I'm quarantine sick
Shouldn't wanna be in my kitchen, the way I eat shit
I'm a glutton when niggas start frontin'
Elsewhere he gets serious without getting preachy. "The Gentrification" could have been insufferable, but it stays even-handed in its micro-angle treatment of urban upheaval:
The dropout rate's at an all-time highSo dispersed is the Wu-Tang legacy these days, so dubious its branding, that even a mixtape half as charismatically gangster as this one would have been totally satisfying. But at 24 minutes -- which even includes a clip of Ol' Dirty Bastard's proto-I'ma-let-you-finish moment at the 1998 Grammy Awards -- The Wu Thesis is the sound of the best years of a rap dynasty, condensed to half the length of a Mad Men episode. Download it, take the dog for a leisurely walk, and bang this shit.
'Cause teacher's telling me that if I do aiight
Then I can get a job making $7.99--
$300 a week? I make that in a night
Cause marijuana's cheap, but robbin's even cheaper
I come up on a lick, that's a kit and new sneakers