Watch Andrew Barber’s six-part conversation with Curren$y, which tells the stories behind the iconic rapper’s success, independence and longevity.
Curren$y is a survivor. Having emerged in an era when music was still consumed on compact discs and video budgets were six figures or better, he made his debut as part of the 504 Boyz on Master P’s No Limit Records. But Curren$y joined the roster in 2002, just as the label’s tank started running low. After appearing on the second 504 Boyz album and several Master P album cuts, he left the label without ever dropping a solo project.
Setting up in his hometown of New Orleans, Curren$y pushed forward as an independent artist. He changed his plans after a chance encounter with Lil Wayne, who invited his fellow NOLA native to join his then-new Young Money Entertainment, a subsidiary of the powerhouse Cash Money Records. At the time, Lil Wayne was arguably the hottest rapper in the business. He and Remy Ma teamed with Curren$y on “Where Da Cash At,” which became a minor hit. Yet Young Money was in its infancy. Curren$y would leave another label without releasing an album.
The veteran free agent grinded it out on the mixtape circuit, making enough noise to land on the cover of XXL magazine’s 2009 Freshman Class issue, then the gold standard for burgeoning artists. At the time, music blogs were developing into the dominant platform for releasing and discovering music. Already on that wavelength, Curren$y became a blog staple and critical darling. He also forged a relationship with another major-label castoff by the name of Wiz Khalifa. The two started releasing high-end stoner anthems for a new generation.
Curren$y soon caught the attention of storied music mogul Dame Dash, who had recently parted ways with Jay-Z and Roc-A-Fella Records. Dame was launching a new indie-leaning label and art house, DD172, which set out to be a hub for an emerging class that included Mos Def, Jay Electronica, Jim Jones, the Black Keys and more. Curren$y issued a few projects with DD172, but the union soured. He went back to being an independent — the role in which he’s always been most comfortable.
He launched his own label, Jet Life Recordings, and began self-releasing his own projects. He’s done almost everything in-house ever since — including collaborations with the likes of Freddie Gibbs, Wiz Khalifa, Cardo, Harry Fraud, the Alchemist and many others. Over the course of nearly two decades, Curren$y has released more than 60 projects. It’s almost impossible to keep track of them all.
Curren$y’s success is a testament to his business instincts and industry savvy. He’s aged gracefully in the rap world and remained prolific without doing too much — no small feat. He’s worked with some of the biggest music moguls and, after each venture ended, he’s only gotten bigger. He’s used every situation as a learning experience, providing direction for how to conduct and maneuver his career. He did it his way, without compromising. The CD era, the Blog Era, the streaming era — he’s been present for them all. And he’ll certainly be here for whatever’s next.
Andrew Barber is the owner/creator of Fake Shore Drive, a Chicago-based media, management and events company founded in 2007. Andrew is also a playlist curator, published music journalist, artist manager, brand and record label consultant and media personality. Andrew currently sits as Governor of The Recording Academy’s Grammy board. His radio show, The Drive on Shade 45, airs weekly on SiriusXM, and has been on air for over six years. He has also hosted programming on MTV and one of Chicago’s top radio stations, 107.5 WGCI-FM. As a journalist, Andrew has been published in publications such as VICE, Complex, Fader, XXL, Mass Appeal and more. Andrew’s company, Fake Shore Drive, has been instrumental in the rise of Chicago’s hip-hop scene, having helped cultivate the careers of Chance the Rapper, Chief Keef, Lil Durk, Vic Mensa and the many other gold- and platinum-selling artists.