Today marks the 38th birthday of New Orleans’ own Curren$y. We celebrate his born day by chronicling his path to becoming the latest king of the Crescent City. Happy Birthday, Spitta. Burn one for us.
Curren$y cares about his legacy. The forefather of the fly doesn’t always make it clear, his nonchalant demeanor can mask his intentions behind clouds of smoke, but anyone who has paid attention to his extensive career knows all he does is make moves to further cement his place in New Orleans rap history.
A mantra I’ve tried to adopt recently is giving people their flowers while they’re here. When I think of people who I admire that never get the credit they deserve, my mind instantly jumps to Shante Franklin, widely known as Curren$y, the Hot Spitta. His rise from spitting freestyles down the block to pushing his Wraith down Canal Street while investing back into his city should make anyone from the 504 proud. New Orleanians have seen some of our most beloved artists fall before we could appreciate them in ways other than Second Lines or “Free Them” t-shirts, but it’s time to change that.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Elliot “YN” Wilson and Brian “B.Dot” Miller at Rap Radar for the excellent interview they gave Spitta in 2018. We wouldn’t have been able to craft the most in-depth bio written on Curren$y anywhere online without you. Check them out.
Curren$y: Pressure Forms a New Orleans Diamond
Master P remembers Curren$y as a young rapper with a ton of talent who was always in “a rush.” He was a late addition to No Limit Record’s 504 Boyz back in those days – so late, in fact, that he had to be photoshopped in the group’s debut album cover. He was surrounded by Master P, C-Murder, and Soulja Slim, some of the most important artists in New Orleans history.
While Curren$y was the newest member of a label with a grocery list of rappers, New Orleans’ greatest king had already been building his own storied legacy.
Soulja Slim was one of the most talented rappers to ever touch a microphone. He injected New Orleans with quality street music inspired by drug use (“Get High With Me”), complicated street love (“Wright Me”), local bounce music (“Bounce With Me”), and intricate gangsta rap chronicles (“Slim Pimpin”)––all tucked within two mixtapes, Give It 2 ‘Em Raw and The Streetz Made Me. His skill on the mic and certified street persona also carried a vibrant and charismatic personality that gave Slim everything he needed to transcend from local sensation to national star.
Sadly, Slim was shot and killed in New Orleans in 2003, three months after his latest album Years Later…A Few Months After released. Sadly, death and incarceration have been a consistent pattern for some of the city’s best talents ever since.
In 2010, Magnolia Shorty, a female rapper from the same neighborhood as Soulja Slim and a trailblazer for bounce’s raunchy approach of today, was shot and killed in front of her apartment complex. Young Greatness, who earned national radio play for his song “Moolah,” was shot and killed in New Orleans just last year. And when death doesn’t stop the city’s artists from showcasing their talents to the world, New Orleans’ controversial criminal system picks up the slack.
B.G., a prominent member in the Hot Boyz, has been serving a 14-year prison sentence since 2012 from drugs and gun charges, and Mystikal has been in and out of jail since 2004 after serving a six-year stint in a Louisiana Correctional Facility from sexual battery and extortion charges. He was arrested in 2017 on rape and kidnapping charges, but was released from prison on a $3 million bond in February.
While Curren$y was still learning his craft and handing out t-shirts to earn his place in No Limit, Corey Miller––more commonly known as C-Murder and Master P’s brother––used to let Spitta sleep on his couch.
Miller, himself, was already an established hitmaker and local legend for No Limit Records in the late 90s. In 1998, his debut album Life or Death debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 list and sold almost 200,000 copies in his first week. His next two releases, Bossalinie (1999) and Trapped in Crime (2000) debuted inside the Billboard top ten.
But in 2009, Corey was sentenced to a life in prison for allegedly shooting a 16-year old in a nightclub in Louisiana. Testimonies from key witnesses in the trial against Miller have since been recanted; the witnesses said police strong-armed them into accusing Miller. However, C-Murder remains in the state penitentiary with no release in sight.
A similar situation occurred with Mac, another rapper under the No Limit Records umbrella who is still serving 30 years in jail for second-degree murder, despite having eyewitness admit that investigators were threatening them with jail time if they didn’t name Mac as the shooter.
Curren$y has been fortunate enough to be close to some of the aforementioned artists and walk away unscathed. For him, seeing all the violence is what pushed him to become a stoner.
I think that’s how I found my relationship with really good weed because it settled everything. You can’t really sit up and think what’s going on that much. Sometimes you gotta smoke it off, and then you realize it’s better on that end than the other end and you’re never sober again.” – Curren$y (2016)
After leaving Master P’s No Limit Records, Spitta was recruited by Lil Wayne to join his Young Money label alongside Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Tyga. With future rap stars being incubated during Wayne’s peak, Curren$y quickly became another background figure.
His best moment on Young Money was landing a moderate hit with “Where the Cash At.” The rest of his time was spent being featured on select Wayne mixtape cuts and freestyling on Young Money tour buses.
Young Money released their group album We Are Young Money in 2009––which featured smash hits like “Bedrock” and “Every Girl in the World”––and immediately vaulted the group into mainstream success. Curren$y, however, left Young Money two years earlier through an announcement on Myspace.
I officially declare my independence on this 16th day of December 2007….I AM NOT YOUNG MONEY….regardless of what u may hear in da streets,read on the web or hear on the radio I AM NOT YOUNG MONEY….If that loses me friends r fans thats just something i will live with but i will get my just due in this rap game b4 its all said and done…..Dont look 4 any beef records from me cuzz that aint my thing, just look 4 me at the top…str8 up…..fly 1 out.” – Curren$y (2007)
He never felt that he fit the Young Money mold Wayne wanted, and decided to bet on himself after being tethered to others for so long. It was always risky, but Curren$y gripped onto faith.
I believe if you roll the dice like that, that proves you have faith in a higher power and the universe and something will work out for you; otherwise it’s all a lie. It worked. The universe used me as an example. It couldn’t fail me because I stepped outside of something that nobody would have did.” – Curren$y (2018)
Spitta Prepares for Takeoff
In 2008 Curren$y released Independence Day, his first project after leaving Young Money. Master P said Curren$y moved too fast, but now Spitta couldn’t stop moving. He released a total of seven mixtapes that year, including standouts Fear and Loathing in New Orleans and Fast Times at Ridgemont Fly.
That insane output made Curren$y an XXL Freshman in 2009.
Everything hit right there. [The XXL Freshman Top 10 cover] happened; MTV did their Fab 5 for the summer… and they picked me for that, so that had my video “Life Under the Scope” playing like every hour. So people latched on to what I was doing because it was of the era.” – Curren$y (2018)
Curren$y’s Datpiff section is prime real estate on the internet. He has created high-quality mixtapes across his entire career, including the famous Pilot Talk series, Verde Terrace and Smokee Robinson. New Orleans rappers have always had a collection of work that impacted the city in a major way. Slim’s music still blare out of New Orleans car windows to this day, and Wayne’s mixtape accomplishments are well-documented. Curren$y created a culture and fame around his mixtapes that would be in a New Orleans Hip-Hop Hall of Fame if one ever existed.
In this fictional museum, How Fly, a joint mixtape with Curren$y and Pittsburgh’s Wiz Khalifa, would get the biggest mantle in Spitta’s dedicated room.
That shit with me and Wiz changed the world and some people give me the credit I’m supposed to get, but I don’t give a fuck about that. It changed the game. It changed how people smoked. Changed how people dressed. It changed music.” – Curren$y (2018)
Curren$y isn’t wrong; throwback Mitchell and Ness gear and weed raps became the newest trends in 2009 after the release of How Fly.
Long Beach, California rapper Vince Staples emphasized how Curren$y and Wiz helped usher a weed-centric era: “I don’t care what nobody say. Smoking weed was not super-duper popping, to the point everybody doing it when you turn 13 [and] 14, before that Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y type resurgence. Before that happened, niggas wasn’t really smoking heavy weed like that. It was around, but it was never popular culture. Before Wiz and [Curren$y], there was no rappers in my generation or my era growing up smoking weed on TV.”
The How Fly mixtape catapulted both artists into a higher standing, no pun intended, transforming them into rap’s new standard for stoners almost overnight while giving them tracks like “Car Service” and “The Check Point” they can perform for the rest of their careers.
After How Fly, Curren$y continued to release music by the truckload, further changing rap’s landscape in the blog era and creating a label as one of the hardest working artists in hip-hop.
Before Soundcloud’s existence, blogs were the main venues pushing rap from small market cities to a wider audience. Curren$y decided to use the internet and blogs to his advantage.
Curren$y simply gifted free music to fans via blog sites, and they showed their appreciation by selling out every show in every city, copping merch at the shows, and growing into a loyal and dedicated fan base. That’s how Curren$y formed and solidified his Jet Life fanbase across the country and influenced a new generation of rappers in the process.
“Curren$y was my favorite rapper,” Playboi Carti said to Peter Rosenberg on New York’s Hot 97. When Rosenberg suggested that Curren$y helped influence a lot of the “mumble rappers,” Carti agreed: “Facts. When everyone was listening to Wiz, I switched over to Curren$y. Curren$y is a big influence on my shit. That’s not a thing that a lot of people know. But come chill with me and you’ll catch me playing Curren$y shit all day.”
Curren$y sees the newer generation giving him credit for his influence and he’s still humbled by it:
People who I don’t even expect to have ever listened to me, who are receiving a lot of acclaim and accolades right now, when they ask them they say my name. I remember my first batch of interviews and when I was first doing stuff, and they would ask, ‘Who’s your biggest influence?’ and I was like, ‘Damn, this my chance to shout out Pharrell and Snoop and shit like that, and maybe they’d hear it.’ So they say that shit and I’m like ‘Damn.’ I can’t even think how many times it happens… I see kids like Famous Dex who are like, ‘Nah, homie, you the GOAT, bruh. I did this because of you.’” – Curren$y (2018)
Curren$y’s sound, strategy, and personality are deeply respected across hip-hop. He can get nearly any feature or favor he wants from some of today’s biggest artists, from 2 Chainz to Pharrell. Good luck finding anyone to say something negative about Spitta.
Despite earning respect from his colleagues and unwavering support from his fans, Curren$y was content on staying lowkey. He, instead, invested everything he gained back into New Orleans.
Jet Life Records: NOLA Takeover
In 2011 Curren$y started Jet Life Records with his longtime manager Mousa, who managed other New Orleans rappers before Curren$y. The JLR roster started with local talent: some spent time in No Limit with Curren$y like Feind and Marcelo and others were relatively new faces like Trademark the Skydiver, Young Roddy, Cornerboy P, Mary Gold, and Young TY, who is also B.G.’s son.
Curren$y, Trademark, and Roddy would form a dominant trio. They put out some of their best work together and helped solidify the brand. Music and merch stamped with the Jet Life insignia started to dominate the streets.
With No Limit and Young Money all but evaporated, Jet Life became the sole musical empire in New Orleans.
Outside of Jet Life, Spitta lent a helping hand to his New Orleans family whenever he could. He tapped NOLA legend Juvenile for a verse on “B*tch Get Up” off his New Jet City mixtape; he’s worked with longtime local artist Nesby Phips countless times; and he helped squash any idea of a lasting beef with Lil Wayne when he added Wayne on a remix for “Smoke Sumthin’.” They continued to work together on “Fat Albert” from Curren$y’s Carrollton Heist mixtape and “Bottom of the Bottle,” along with New Orleans singer August Alsina, which earned Curren$y his first taste of significant radio play.
Spitta, the People’s King
Down Claiborne Avenue, away from the empty hand grenade bottles on Bourbon Street, is one of New Orleans’ most beloved landmarks. On the side of the Nuthin But Fire record store, Soulja Slim looks back with a mural-afixed scowl, the only other face he had when it wasn’t a gold-ladened smile.
On the wall inside We Dat’s Chicken and Shrimp on Canal Street, Curren$y has a mural of his own. He sits in his green 1965 Chevy Impala with his hand holding up his head and his wrists holding a gold watch; it’s probably a Rolex. These two New Orleans legends are immortalized on the walls of their city for the work they’ve done, and the contributions they’ve left, inside and outside of music.
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Curren$y started Jet Life Athletics in 2015, an AAU basketball program for kids in the city (and they’ve already picked up a few New Orleans tournament championships). Recently, he purchased a former location from the local burger chain, Bud’s Broiler, and plans on rebranding it into Life Burger. He even flirted with the idea of buying the Six Flags Amusement park in New Orleans East that’s been abandoned since Hurricane Katrina and hasn’t been able to find a suitable developer to rebuild the space.
Imagine Jet Life Land, carousels with old-school cars instead of animals entertaining the kids, a lowrider rollercoaster that plays Bootsy Collins and The Sequinsamuse the bigger kids, and a themed diner decorated like Jack Rabbit Slim in Pulp Fiction feeds us all. Spitta would be bigger in New Orleans than Drew Brees on a Sunday if he pulled that off.
It’s easy to catch Curren$y on any day of the week. He’s a frequent participant at the Jet Lounge, a weekly event he created in 2013 at the House of Blues that feels more like a kickback than a concert, which is how it was intended.His lowriders or other exotic cars are parked outside the Jet Lounge venue from time to time but are more likely seen outside We Dat’s, almost as much as his mural can be seen inside of it. This is when he’s not performing in the city, something he does often.
Despite dipping into food and event coordination, Curren$y’s biggest passion has always been cars, and he’s found a new way to become the voice for New Orleans thanks to 100 spoke Daytons, switches, and his Cruise Life Lowrider car club.
On random Sundays Curren$y and his lowrider car club members roll down Lake Charles; other car enthusiasts, from motorbikes to muscles cars, join the fray. People barbecue, crack jokes, politic, and show off their wheels. It’s a New Orleans tradition to pull up on the “lake” with a few pounds of crawfish, daiquiris for the non-designated drivers, and enjoy the weather around this time of year––when the impending harsh summers combine with the leftover winter season to create the perfect weather.
Thanks to his signature low riders, publications from around the country have new reasons to document some of the happenings inside New Orleans other than the food and history.
Complex magazine’s First We Feast went to New Orleans to document the city’s Bahn Mi, or Vietnamese style Po-Boys. Spitta and the show’s host ate Po-Boys on the back of his lowrider while he talked up the city’s distinct food, culture, and style. They also asked him to list his late night eating guide in New Orleans.
Well-known lowrider YouTube channel We Gon’ Ride TV, visited Curren$y to showcase his lowriders and the rest of the Cruise Life Car Club. One of the first things Curren$y did was pass out food to the homeless who live in tents under interstate I-10 in the heart of downtown New Orleans.
Spitta has been a lowrider enthusiast for a long time, but his focus on lowriding is still a new endeavor. His status as a rapper vaulted him to the head figure for New Orleans’ lowrider culture, something he doesn’t even want. He just wants to help push it further.
I just want to spread the culture in my city and have everybody lowride. I’m not even trying to be ‘I’m king lowrider. Everybody report to me,’… I have to soak the game up just like everybody else do.” – Curren$y (2017)
His lowriding expeditions have been chronicled on his “Raps and Lowriders” Youtube series, and he’s already ensuring the culture he’s helped promote lasts forever. Curren$y recently added “rap dad” to his already long resume when he welcomed his son; he’s just waiting for him to get bigger so his prince can ride in the signature green 1964 Chevy chariot with him.
Violence and incarceration have plagued some of New Orleans’ best talent. Curren$y maneuvered through it all, soaking up game along the way, and became every bit of the artist the city needs. He’s too humble to tell you he’s the sole owner of Crescent City’s crown, and he surely won’t tell you how heavy it is. Each gem that adorns it is filled with some of the city’s brightest talents and moments that have gone on to change hip-hop forever, while every dent is a stark reminder of the legends that have fallen with it on. The crown is heavy, but Spitta makes it look easy.
Curren$y told Mass Appeal about the time Lil Wayne introduced him to perform and said, “Here comes another New Orleans legend.” He grew from a last minute fill in on the 504 Boyz to easily one of the top five greatest artists to ever come out of the Crescent City.
Curren$y’s demeanor never changed as he told the story, and he capped it with a reaction you could only expect from Spitta after being put into an elite class by one of the city’s most important people: “And that was tight.”