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The father of the SoundCloud wave, Denzel Curry, returns, following last year's 13 EP and 2016's Imperial album with the three-part TA13OO. Broken up into "Light," "Gray," and "Dark" acts, Curry gives a much more conceptual album than I anticipated, and he continues to distance himself from his contemporaries.
The singles leading up to the album led me to think that this would be a typical Denzel project, with gritty trap bangers with better lyricism than his peers. "Sumo" dropped well in advance, being previewed at Camp Flog Gnaw in 2017. A ringing beat that catches you and Denzel's delivery on this instantly turns it into a great party song. I loved the Chowder line in this, referencing the character Shnitzel's "rada-rada-rada." "Percs" is another fantastic club banger, with Denzel going hard for three straight minutes. He talks about the current wave of SoundCloud trying to take his spot, when they wouldn't be here without him.
The album started to shift when the third single was released, "Clout Cobain." Curry shows the ability to make a melodic and sticky hook on this, mentioning that the clout, or fame, can cause mental issues that lead to depression and suicide, like with Kurt Cobain. Curry flows beautifully over the eerie beat, and the hook just sticks with you.
The rest of the album contains many highlights and not many lowlights, if any at all. "Black Balloons" with Goldlink is one of the smoothest tracks on the album, with Denzel effortlessly flowing over a laid-back beat with really nice drums. Goldlink's verse features his fantastic flow and is one of my favorite feature verses on the year, though it's still only the second best feature on the album.
"Sirens" featuring J.I.D. and Billie Eilish is my favorite track. Denzel teams up with teen pop star Billie Eilish on the hook, and it's the most melodic I've ever heard Denzel. His verses are full of political commentary and packed with emotion, yet he still rides the beat so well. J.I.D., fresh off of an outstanding XXL Freshman performance, absolutely murders his feature verse. His flow and delivery are up there with any rapper right now, and his verse has a part where he's using the national anthem to talk about police brutality in America.
Oh say, you can see a hundred dead bodies in the street
By the dawn's early light, double Sprite and a R.I.P. tee
So proudly, lights gleam, let the gun blow in the night time
"Vengeance" with JPEGMAFIA and ZillaKami is a violent, dark banger that has Denzel talking about hiding his murder victim's dead body in concrete. JPEGMAFIA references half the rap game in his verse, from Drake to 6IX9INE to Pusha T. ZillaKami finishes up the song with a gritty delivery, and I really like how he flows towards the end of his verse.
There's a couple of songs I don't love, like "The Blackest Balloon," but there's nothing I dislike about this album except maybe the concept could have been executed better. A song like "Sumo" doesn't seem like it should be in the "Light" act, but it could just be Denzel saying that even in his happiest moments, there's still darkness.
Curry brings up some heavy topics in this album, and he meshes them so well into his musical style. The opening and title track are so easy on the ears, yet when you delve into the lyrics, it's so much more than an easy going melodic rap ballad. Curry details his relationship with a girl that grew up being molested and faced terrible abuse. He explains the struggle to bring together two people facing emotional damage.
This is Denzel's most conceptual, most mature, and best project to date. Much more melodic and soulful than his previous work, this is most likely my album of the year thus far.
NINE OUT OF TEN
- Fav songs: "Sirens," "Black Balloons," "Percs," "Vengeance"
- Least fav: "The Blackest Balloon"