Artists: Denzel Curry, Kenny Beats
Label: PH / Loma Vista
Non-Airable Tracks: All of them.
Sounds Like: Cloud Rap, Mid-90s Boom Bap, Injury Reserve?
I was fourteen when I first discovered Florida man Denzel Curry’s aggressive, hazy, and intergalactic music amongst the wave of what was then considered “cloud rap”. I thought this man was the king of the underground, a scene I was just then beginning to familiarize myself with through my iPhone 4, late at night while staying at Grandma’s house. Quickly becoming a fan, I watched as the Carol City native grew from the unknown voice behind the meme classic, “Ultimate”, to featuring on what is pretty easily XXL’s best freshmen lineup in the past 5 years. From there, Denzel began working with more established artists as his sound took a more mass-appeal direction. Following his major label debut, “Ta13oo”, I attended his concert in Santa Cruz, California, and lost a shoe in the one of the hardest most pits I’ve ever been in, the only competition being JPEGMAFIA’s. Then, following the release of “ZUU”, an album more attuned with the classic South Florida sound than his original style, the rapper featured on an episode of Kenny Beat’s “The Cave”. I remember watching this with my new roommate and going absolutely nuts when he spit the line “Flames all on my body like I’m Charmander!”. Now, the same MC/producer duo holds claim to “UNLOCKED”, a 17-minute EP accompanied by a short film.
I listened to the project a couple times before watching the video and thought it was nothing too stand-out, despite Denzel Curry’s energetic delivery, something I’ve grown to only expect from such a phenomenal rapper. Later, I was at a friend’s place and watched the animated film, which I found to be fantastically animated at some points but sloppy and uncreative at others, a result of the long line of animators that came through on the project. While I didn’t think the visuals stylistically matched the music all too often, I was inspired to revisit the EP. It ended up growing on me over the next few days, as I came to recognize, for the first time in a while, that Denzel’s amusing lines and powerful flow are not to be taken for granted, especially when paired with Kenny’s masterfully tailored production.
Overall, “UNLOCKED” sounds pretty much like something you’d expect from both Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats at this point. Fat, booming bass, head-banging percussion, and synths both glitchy and futuristic, all accompanied by a geyser of bars from the Aquarius’Killa himself. Admittedly, I at first perceived the tracks off “UNLOCKED” as hollow-sounding, too full of cheap sound effects, and all too similar for any to stand out. It wasn’t until I became truly familiar with the texture and little details that I saw the distinctive allure of each. Take_it_Back_v2 is nasty and menacing, Lay_Up.m4a is an acidic trap banger,
So.Incredible.pkg has a laidback boom bap vibe that would’ve fit in well on “ZUU”. Despite the variety of styles brought out throughout the project, Kenny makes them all sound as if they were destined to be heard together by implementing his own unique touch to them, and Denzel sustains his classic braggadocio energy and lyrics no matter the sonic climate. The only true fault of “UNLOCKED” is Track07”, an underwhelming and out-of-place deep house track sprinkled with excerpts of Denzel lines. I supposed it’d be alright in a different context, but not here. It’s a forgivable flaw among seven other real pieces of work. I think anybody into hardcore hip hop, and especially past fans of Denzel Curry, can grow to love “UNLOCKED”.
Recommended Tracks: Take_it_Back_v2, Lay_Up.m4a, DIET_
Reviewer’s Name: Mitchell Ross
Date of Review: February 20, 2020