Denzel Curry dives into the dark on ‘TA13OO’

September 7, 2018

Man, this album is good.

Denzel Curry, former founding member of Miami’s Raider Klan and Soundcloud pioneer, is unfortunately most known for making the soundtrack to bottle-flip Vines. Yet, the 23 year old has shown more longevity than some of his peers, retaining a healthy-sized following in what is now the seventh year of his career. After the bit of a wait that he held his fans over with the “13” EP, Denzel Curry released his latest album in late July. His previous album, “Imperial,” released in March 2016, was well-received and showcased his aggressive flows at the most refined they had been to date. And while this was evident in songs like “ULT” and “Knotty Head,” songs like “This Life” and “Pure Enough” also showcased Denzel’s desire to display a more melodic side of himself.

“TA13OO” builds on this right away with the eponymous opening track, where Denzel Curry does what sounds like an impression of Denzel Curry doing an Andre 3000 impression. It’s a nice, chill introduction to the first of three segments of the album, “Light”. These segments, the others being “Gray” and “Dark,” are 4-5 tracks long, consistent of different vibes and all released on different days. The next track on “Light,” “Black Balloons” (featuring Twelve’len and Goldlink), follows this melodic mold, showcasing more of Outkast’s influence on this project. And again Denzel’s singing takes center stage on what are probably the two brightest moments on the project, “Sirens” and “Clout Cobain.” In the former, Denzel’s Billie Eilish-assisted chorus is a perfect compliment to Denzel’s super gritty and focused bars about police brutality and white nationalism—oh, and the J.I.D feature on this song has verse of the year potential. The latter, accompanied by a great music video, features Denzel’s crooned verses about his frustration social media clout culture. The song is like a 2018 version of Lupe Fiasco’s “The Coolest” in its portrayal of what mass culture rewards and what people will do to achieve the cool/clout.

But “TA13OO” isn’t a total stylistic departure either. Denzel’s aggressive Ultimate-style delivery makes appearances on “Sumo,” “Percs” and the closing track “Black Metal Terrorist,” all of which are great songs. Something I appreciate on each of these tracks is that Denzel occasionally pairs his over the top delivery with childish lyrics, like an allusion to Cartoon Network’s “Chowder,” someone being “a plain slut that loves it in the anus,” or an impersonation of South Park’s Timmy. It’s a page out of the Slim Shady playbook and I think it’s a nice touch. Equally aggressive, though with a more unique flow, is “Vengeance” which features JPEGMAFIA (heart emoji) and Zillakami. The three’s chemistry on this track is unbelievable; everyone brings their absolute best to deliver four minutes of nasty, abrasive, face-scrunching bars.

Other songs don’t fit the two categories I’ve constructed as neatly but are too great to go unmentioned. For instance, “Super Saiyan Superman” is another stinkface-inducing song, with a great lofi beat. Denzel’s flow is very crisp on that track; he’s really at home on this beat. Then there’s “Switch It Up,” which is a song about people’s shifting opinions of Denzel with an infectious chorus. The Hamlet-quoting opening of this made me spill milk out my nose the first time I heard it. And lastly, “The Blackest Balloon” is another song with a lofi beat over which Denzel is visited by his dead brother. Denzel dives in on drug abuse, claiming that “ain’t shit changed since Lil Peep died” on this track, which ushers in the last of the three album’s segments, “Dark.”

The decision to split the album into three segments and release them each individually one day after the last made for an interesting rollout. The subject matter of “Light,” “Gray” and “Dark” doesn’t really differ at all. Instead, the difference lies in Denzel’s attitude towards them. The progression in mood between them isn’t necessarily linear either. Light sees Denzel optimistic that pain will pass, that leaning on someone else, the personification of Taboo, will help the both of them “get through to the next day.” Gray is the bleak segment. Even the songs where Denzel is gloating that people are mad he’s got it, it’s portrayed as a crabs in a bucket scenario. Dark is the grittiest of the three. After an eerie start with “The Blackest Balloon,” the album ends on the three most aggressive songs in the tracklisting, leaving you ready to run through a wall. It provides a nice high point to end on that the whole album seems to build towards.

On “TA13OO,” Denzel Curry comes through with an aggressive, dark, smart album. The album is a tight 43 minutes. No filler, no lulls. No careless performances from anyone on the project. This album should cast off any doubts that Denzel is just a Soundcloud rapper with an above-average shelf life. The man raps his heart out, he takes his artistry very seriously, he puts a ton of thought into his projects and the result is a great album.

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