Denzel Curry is a Florida based rapper who rose to popularity with his 2015 single “Ultimate.” It was loud, hard-hitting, and extremely lyrical and, although the song stood well on its own merits, it got most of its exposure by becoming a part of popular meme. Regardless, Denzel found his way on to the much maligned 2016 XXL Freshman Class and gave, probably, the only impressive performance in a terrible freshman cypher.
Later that year, he released his major label debut, Imperial and everything changed. The LP was violent, vulgar, and filled its 40 minute runtime with a breakneck pace. It’s jazz influences balanced well against Curry’s rapping style, which can best be described as “lyrical trap.” After the albums tremendous success, Curry made it clear in interviews that he planned to take his time on his follow up and that he was determined to push himself as an artist to create something that was truly special, so when TA13OO dropped over a three day period as three separate EP’s, the question arose: did he succeed? The answer is mixed.
The album is certainly quite a change of pace from his previous work. The jazz elements are essentially gone, which one would expect given the quick fall from the zeitgeist which jazz rap suffered, and the tempo’s are much more varied, often slowing to a smooth croon in a few choruses, such as that of the album’s title track and opener.
The slower, simpler vibe is also prevalent on tracks like “CLOUT CO13A1N” and “MAD 1 GOT 1T,” both of which are high points on the record. The bass heavy mix on these tracks is an excellent choice as well, as it grants a kind of gravitas to Curry’s vocals.
Classic Denzel is still here, however, and on tracks like “ZUMO,” “VENGEANCE,” and my personal favorite track, “PERCZ.” Here, Curry unleashes with an unstoppable flow, tight rhyme schemes, and a raspy vocal quality which refuses to be ignored. This is Denzel’s wheelhouse, and it shows.
The instrumentation is quite interesting on this album as well. Tracks like “CAZH MAN1AC,” and “Z1RENS,” are built on electronic tracks which, while relatively inoffensive, can sometimes verge on distracting.
“ZW1TCH 1T UP,” and “ZUPER ZA1YAN ZUPERMAN,” on the other hand, are made darker through the use of lead melodies in the instrumental which were very heavily derived from the soundtracks of early horror and mystery films.
On top of all of this, the record is also doused with solid features. Unsurprisingly, JPEGMafia is by far the best of these, but Nyyjerya’s work on “CAZH MAN1AC” and J.I.D.’s on “Z1RENZ” are definitely ear-catching.
If there is a complaint to be made here, it falls on the album’s tendency toward the forgettable. “THE 13LACKEST 13ALLOON” and the closer, “13 M T” hold very little in the way of notable moments, and the same goes for “13LACK 13ALLOONZ” aside from a unique sound which doesn’t exactly work and a fantastic transition in the final few moments which is, admittedly, a highlight of the project. Overall, as well, the album seems to drone on if one doesn’t, as a listener, make an effort to differentiate one track from another.
All in all, this is a solid sophomore release for a promising young artist, however, I can’t seem to shake a lingering sense of disappointment which is likely caused by the album’s inability to escape the shadow of its more coherent and memorable predecessor.
HEAR TA13OO: https://open.spotify.com/album/6idVoBWP2mt1qoMtASm3gc