Discography Deep Dive: Denzel Curry
Hailing from Carol City, Florida, the twenty-six year old Denzel Curry is one of the most talented, creative and refreshing faces in all of hip-hop. Denzel is not only one of the best promising young acts in hip-hop but one of my personal favorites as well. I don't think I've spoken too much about Zel on here and I'm very excited to as I mentioned he is a personal favorite and I am very much anticipating his next album, as I'm sure most of you are. Every record of his has its own unique soundscape but Denzel's distinct delivery and impressively fast flows remain constant.
In 2021 we have not heard too mych from Denzel but enough to keep his fans satisfied until 2022, which is when I'd imagine his album drops. He dropped UNLOCKED 1.5, which is essentially a deluxe to his 2020 effort UNLOCKED with Kenny Beats. It's not wholly new music at it's eight new renditions of the original UNLOCKED tracks, just with altered instrumentals or new featured artists, and it was very entertaining but because it is naturally a deluxe album it will not be counted to his dicography. Nostalgic 64 and 13LOOD IN 13LOOD OUT are also great efforts from Zel but will also not be featured here unless they get released on streaming, like Mac Miller's Faces recently did. He did release a single The Game which was pretty great and gave us amazing features on JID's Bruuuh Remix and Jasiah's single Art of War, but other than that it's been pretty quiet from him this year.
5. 32 Zel
Half of Denzel's Extended Play from 2015, 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms (Planet Shrooms is not being accounted for due to not being on streaming) is a good effort but just the start for Curry. This is the largest amount of South Florida influence from artists like $uicideBoy$ and Pouya that we hear from Curry. The clouded, booming and grimey trap style instrumentals on this 7 song album are good but don't leave room for Denzel to truly excel. Tracks like Chief Forever and Lord Vader Kush II are good tracks but far from Zel's beat as coming so early on in his career, these are some of his least daring tracks. The record just feels like a crop of standard trap songs that do have Denzel's unique persona, but lack any real thematic depth. Zel's breakout hit, Ultimate is on here and though the track hasn't aged great it is the cornerstone of his rise to the mainstream.
Denzel's fourth studio album, ZUU is a love letter to his hometown of Carol City, which is also nicknamed the ZUU. Like 32 Zel this is a short and concise listen, coming in at less than a half hour run time. Also like 32 Zel, this album is characterized by the South Florida trap sound, but here it is a lot more polished, tasteful and fun. Continuing to be a step up in quality, Denzel's lyricism though not on the level of TA13OO or Imperial has evolved, as there are a lot of great one liners and cohesive themes in some songs. The first half of the record has stand out tracks like RICKY, WISH, AUTOMATIC and SPEEDBOAT which could all have dynamic instrumentals and crisp flows from Denzel, being some of the best tracks on the album. They bring the same energy as the latter half of the record but it's a lot more tame and smooth, where Denzel is truly what's making the song. The tracks following BUSHY B INTERLUDE are all rooted in the underground Florida sound, charcterized by bouncy club beats with bombastic bass and aggressive deliveries. These tracks like SHAKE 88 and P.A.T. are also great but are a step down in quality from the first half of the album. ZUU is a great trap album that eclipses some of the hottest trap artist's in the game's best work, but looks weak in comparison to the rest of Denzel's innovative and game changing catalog.
3. UNLOCKED with Kenny Beats
Denzel's fifth and most recent studio album in collaboration with the great Kenny Beats is also his shortest record but one of his most personality-filled. In under twenty minutes the two are able to do so much as their chemistry is off the charts. This album is best when listened to in one sitting as they create such a unique, vibrant and chaotic world. Denzel's delivery is mean and he has some of his best double entendres and one liners on this short LP. Kenny Beats matches his energy perfectly on every track, making everything sound great and finished without ever doing too much. The album has social justice undertones that can often be found in Zel's music but it's never the direct focus as there is so much going on from the ever changing world created by Kenny, vocal skits that are reminiscent of Madvillainy and Denzel's elite flows and irregular vocal effects. This short but sweet record is a great example of a rapper and producer locking in to create amazing and abstract art.
Denzel's 2016 effort, Imperial, is not just an album, it's a statement. Unlike later releases like TA13OO and UNLOCKED which demonstrate ideas and creativity of Denzel, Imperial is a show of pure, unfiltered skill. Imperial is, in a word, raw. Everything about this album is intense and high paced and just Zel demonstrating everything he is capable of. Some of his all time best tracks like ULT, Zenith with Joey Bada$$ and Story: No Title are all on this record, and like the other seven songs, Denzel's bravado and passion are what make him great. On these tracks it's his hardcore flow and stunning pen game or on tracks like Good Night and Me Now where Zel is singing a good bit, Denzel is always giving it his one hundred and ten percent, resulting in an LP that best showcases what Denzel is capable of. Many people have this over TA13OO but I cannot put it there, as Imperial does have some of his best tracks, there are a few moments that aren't as good as the rest, whereas TA13OO is consistently amazing the whole way through. Despite some lows here, this record is an incredible display of what Denzel is best at, bringing raw and ruthless energy, flows and lyricism to a track, it is a high voltage joyride from the start.
As expected, TA13OO was one of the best albums of the last decade as there is just so much good to say about this record, with very few flaws. This is Denzel's most diverse album as there are so many different sounds here, while as a whole there is so much sonic and thematic cohesion here. Everyone knows about the dark to light release method which was genius in itself so I won't get deep into it, but it is just part of the diversity and uniqueness of this record. Denzel puts himself in the position of a messiah, rapping about topics that some artists are afraid to touch on, touching on addiction, police brutality, the dangers of riches and fame, mental health and so much more. The production is immensely atmospheric as Denzel brings us into a dark, dangerous yet lavish world of his own where he raps, and at points sings, his heart out. His flows are as raw as ever on tracks like BLACK METAL TERRORIST and SUMO, while more laid back fast flows like SIRENS and BLACK BALLOONS allow for some of his most polished and lyrically dense verses. From top to bottom there is so much going on here and it is just such an entrancing and important album. Although it is not the best album of all time it is nearly perfect, with only two or three flaws, it is one of a kind and could never be replicated.