It wasn’t long ago that Denzel Curry burst into the limelight, thanks in part to the viral “I Am the One” Vine videos, which featured Curry’s song “Ultimate.”
Now, being almost 2 years removed from the fad, and having dropped quality material on his 2016 album Imperial and his follow-up EP 13, the Miami rapper has been on a mission to move to the forefront of a music wave that has been dominated by some of his fellow Floridian rappers.
The result of his work over the past couple of years — TA1300 — is a three-part dive into his personality that is, without a doubt, Denzel Curry’s most complete project so far, and one of 2018’s best albums.
The album kicks off with a bit of irony, as Curry ushers the listener into the “light part” of the album with the refrain “Welcome to the darker side of TA13OO.” Curry introduces the listener to a more emotional, melodic side of himself rarely seen, as he laments a woman who was sexually abused as a child (“In a sense, I sensed that all your innocence had died”) and, being a damaged individual himself, attempts to comfort her (“As you cry me a thousand lakes on my shoulder blade, I say / Everything’s gonna be okay”). Emotional singing, a melodious hook, profound lyrics, beautiful instrumentation…what a way to start off an album.
Curry continues the dark irony with the song “BLACK BALLOONS”; despite the beautiful, upbeat production, Curry’s lyrics are dark, as he uses It imagery to describe depression and pain. It isn’t really until the punchline-heavy “CASH MANIAC” that the listener is given a holistically “light” song, production-wise and lyrically (“In my Wonderland, I’m back on my Alice”). And while the bass-heavy “SUMO” might have been a better sonic fit on either of the other two acts, there’s little to dislike about the track itself, which is incredibly high-energy and has one of the album’s catchiest, earwormy hooks (“Pockets too big, they sumo”).
On Act 2, Curry combines elements of both “Light” and “Dark,” (making “Gray”) and continues flexing the widening range of his artistic repertoire.
“SUPER SAIYAN SUPERMAN” is a traditional trap anthem in which Curry shows off his machine-gun flow. “MAD I GOT IT” features one of the album’s numerous catchy choruses, as well as some of the albums most interesting and impressive lyrical themes. On “SIRENS”, Curry decides to get a little conscious, addressing a range of political issues including voting, police brutality, and the current presidential administration (“Donald Trump, Donald Duck, what the fuck is the difference?”). And “CLOUT COBAIN”, a track which could’ve easily fit on Act 3, is one of the darkest songs on the entire album, detailing the never-ending struggles and psychological turmoil that plague artists, whose artistry and well-being are out of their control.
A fitting description for Act 3, Denzel begins “Dark” with the hook “Feels like a horror movie” on “THE BLACKEST BALLOON.” And this side of the album only gets more sinister from there.
On “PERCS”, Curry fires multiple rounds at the current state of hip-hop, seemingly calling out the SoundCloud generation, a movement that he helped birth. The Florida rapper takes aim at mumble rappers (“With these dumbass niggas, and they don’t say shit / Sound like ‘Durr, durr, durr’, you like ‘Oh, that’s lit'”), rappers with interesting face tattoos (“Get it straight, I innovate, you ad-libs on a 808 / Don’t need a tattoo on my face cause Denzel is a different race”), industry rappers (“Industry niggas the worst, actin’ like they from the dirt”), and major label signees (“You signing to a label where they treat you like a slave”), among many others.
“VENGEANCE,” the closest thing on Act 3 to an actual horror movie, features Curry, JPEGMAFIA, and ZillaKami rapping over a menacing beat about all the different ways they’d like to end the lives of their adversaries. And the violent themes continue on “BLACK METAL TERRORIST”, as Curry employs another rapid-fire flow and witty wordplay to describe, once again, how he massacres his competition (“Rest all my enemies like I’m insidious”).
In a Genius annotation of one of his lyrics on “CLOUT COBAIN”, Denzel Curry stated, “I always give you that little bit of substance, even though I’m trying to have fun at the same time.” If TA13OO is anything, it is further proof that hip-hop’s more “traditional” values (lyricism, songwriting, content, etc.) and hip-hop’s current SoundCloud rap wave (high-octane rhythms, infectious hooks, etc.) are more than just compatible; when combined, the music they create can be EXCELLENT.