Denzel Curry

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Nostalgic 64 (2013), 5/10
Imperial (2016), 6/10
Ta13oo (2018), 7/10
Zuu (2019), 5/10
Melt My Eyez See Your Future (2022), 7/10

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After a couple of lo-fi mixtapes influenced by local rap guru Markese Rolle and his Raider Klan posse, Florida's rapper Denzel Curry debuted with the album Nostalgic 64 (2013), which combined a diligent appropriation of the trap canon Threatz and Talk That Shit with energetic, hard-hitting bangers like Zone 3 and even one laid-back number, Denny Cascade. The 14-song EP 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms (2015) is divided into two sections: the seven songs of 32 Zel reveal a mellow side of his art, notably the neurotic Ultimate, while Planet Shrooms harkens back to his early mixtapes with a lo-fi psychedelic sound (notably Captain Sea Fonk). Curry invested more in the melodic element on Imperial (2016), but the songs are mostly uniform to the point that it's hard to tell one from the other. It's like hearing several clones of standour Gook.

The rapping experienced took a quantum leap forward on Ta13oo (2018), in terms of variety of styles of flow, of nuanced vocal deliveries. The material is not only more varied but also explores a broad spectrum, from catchy hooks to brutal beats. The mellow and melodic end of the spectrum offers Clout Cobain and Cash Maniac, and the other end has the kind of hard-hitting trap bangers that made him famous (Sumo, Percs, Black Metal Terrorist). Zuu (2019), a tribute to his hometown, was underwhelming in both the melodic realm (save Speedboat) and the aggressive section (save P.A.T.).

The eight-song EP Unlocked (2020) was a collaboration with producer Kenny Beats.

The deeply personal Melt My Eyez See Your Future (2022) abandoned the hard-hitting beats and turned instead to jazz-rap and cinematic samples. Jazz pianist Robert Glasper's production wraps Melt Session #1 into a fairy tale atmosphere that contrasts with the thundering beat. Even jazzier is the bass and piano rhythm that opens Walkin, produced by Kal Banx with a nocturnal female chant wed to a boom-bap beat. Mental is another jazzy song with suave female chanting (a recurring theme), while closer The Ills is another song that incorporates a jazzy piano line (this time as a counterweight to Oladipo "Dot da Genius" Omishore's electronic sound effects). The coupling of voice and production are always surprising: Curry's nasal singalong versus plaintive violin and trap beat in X-Wing (produced by Ghanian musician George Darko and Canadian producer Michal "DrtWrk" Suski); Curry's delinquent tone versus the Middle-eastern female chant, the elaborate piano motif and booming drumming by Karriem Riggins in Angelz (produced by Cuban-American producer, and former punk-rocker, Mickey DeGrand); Curry's elegant rigmarole versus Oladipo "Dot da Genius" Omishore's dissonant production in Worst Comes to Worst; and so on. Zatoichi (produced by Powers Pleasant) reconciles a cosmic-psychedelic undercurrent with the drum'n'bass chaos and vehemence propelling the virulent lines of Curry and Slowthai. Sanjuro is a duet with fellow rapper Willie "454" Wilson produced with industrial sounds by Ronald "Cardo" LaTour and Kal Banx. The mood shifts from the dreamy, otherworldly John Wayne (produced by JpegMafia) to the aggressive energy of the Caribbean-tinged Kenny Beats-produced Troubles. With this most "conscious" and intimate album Curry definitely became one of the towering figures of early 21st-century hip-hop.

(Copyright © 2019 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )