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 the only impressive performance in a terrible freshman cypher. Later that year, he released his major label debut, Imperial, which 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.” Curry followed the album’s impressive success with 2018’s TA13OO, finding even more critical acclaim and commercial success by drastically changing his song. Now, less than a year later, we once again find a very raw form of Denzel on this third LP, ZUU.
The albums is quite impressive thanks to a handful of elements, not the least of which being the unique instrumental approach which Curry takes. Tracks like “BIRDZ,” or the very short “BUSHY B INTERLUDE,” showcase this quite well as they bring the melody to the forefront with abrasive yet listenable tones. While the record focuses very heavily on percussion, it still makes more than a few impressive efforts to bring a melody forward.
On top of this, the bass lines are simply fantastic. The opener and title track may be the most obvious example of this but it plays quite a role in middling songs like “SPEEDBOAT.” The bass brings so much power and controls so much real estate within the mix that it refuses to be ignored, instead carrying a handful of tracks to even more impressive final products.
Additionally, we’re given quite an impressive cast of guest star lyricists on the features list. Tay Keith’s work on “AUTOMATIC,” brings a excellent energy which very nearly matches that of Curry himself. Similarly, Sam Sneak brings a commanding level of bombast to every second of his verse on “SHAKE 88.” While the features list is populated with a handful of relative unknowns, each of them bring their best efforts and prove their place on the album.
Thanks to the short style of writing, the pacing is also quite strong. While ZUU does seem to drag just a bit near the end, it’s quickly saved by the unstoppable, manic energy of a song like “CAROLMART” or the closer, “P.A.T.” Denzel seems to care so much about these tracks that he can give an impressive performance throughout every second, improving great cuts and saving bad ones.
That brings us to the top reason why ZUU is such a strong album, namely Denzel Curry’s explosive flow on nearly every track. Tracks like “RICKY,” and “WISH,” feature some of the best flows I’ve heard all year. Curry’s ability to write one brutal flow after another just doesn’t exist elsewhere in mainstream rap, and yet it’s the very thing that has brought him to such a spotlight so early. His flow clearly draws from elements of drill, bling, Florida rap, which is very refreshing, but he brings along his own spin which makes Denzel Curry one of the best artists on the market today.
I do, admittedly, have a few complaints. Worst of all, the album features three interludes, two of which, “YOO,” and “BLACKLAND 66.6” are fairly meaningless and unnecessary. In addition, I imagine the record could feel a bit draining for a listener who is unfamiliar with Denzel’s relentless flow and lyrical style.
However, the good far outweighs the bad. ZUU certainly isn’t the expansive concept piece its predecessor claimed to be, but instead, it feels like a purging of unused ideas from previous sessions. Despite this, the record feels entirely cohesive and makes for a fantastic listening experience.
ZUU sees Denzel return to his raw roots for a love letter to his home and one of his most listenable LP’s to date.