Review and Download: Curtains' 'The Dissertation (The Wu Thesis)'

Categories: CD review
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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'
Bring 'em to the House of Pain, lame niggas start jumpin'
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 high
'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
So 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.

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