ALBUM REVIEW: TA13OO by DENZEL CURRY
Description: Denzel Curry is a hip hop artist and songwriter from Carol City, Florida. He released his first mixtape in 2011, which caught the ear of local Florida rapper, SpaceGhostPurrp, who brought Curry on to his hip hop collective, Raider Klan. He then released his debut album, Nostalgic 64, in 2013 after getting expelled from high school. In 2016, Curry landed on XXL’s Freshman Class after the release of 32 Zel (which included hit single, “Ultimate”) and his sophomore album, Imperial. He even released a 5-track EP titled 13. He has collaborated with artists like Rick Ross, Joey Bada$$, XXXTENTACION, Ronny J, A$AP Ferg, J.I.D and Lil Ugly Mane. TA13OO is Denzel Curry’s third full-length album.
Final Thoughts: Let me try to paint this picture: It’s July 27, 2018.
I’m sitting in an airport terminal in Las Vegas.
The guy sitting next to me attempts to strike up a conversation about the “long wait” we have to endure before our plane arrives (the place was on-time and at the gat).
I’m sweating with my headphones in, anxiously awaiting Denzel Curry’s Third Act to drop (we’ll talk about the acts later).
9pm strikes. I can’t take it anymore from this guy.
I go stand in a corner of the terminal. Refresh my phone. There it is. At last. 13 months since his 13 EP dropped, TA13OO is in my Music Library.
For those of you who have already heard the record know what I was going through standing in my corner of the terminal listening to Act III of TA13OO.
I really wish there was a way at that time for me to plug my phone into some sort of concert-like speakers and run sprints/punch something/start a mosh pit as this album played.
There have been a handful of albums in the past that have given me chills. Listening to this album was one of those rare occasions. The technical term used here is ‘frisson’, which literally means “aesthetic chills.” As I alluded to, the album is broken up into three acts, and was released on three separate days. The first act he calls Light, the second Gray and the third Dark. All three represent the mental state he was in at the time when writing and recording the songs that coincide with each act, and that reins true with the vibes the songs display within each act. But let’s start from the top with Act I, Light.
As the title of this act suggests, the four tracks that make up the first act are the lightest and most positive. The album opens with “TABOO”, a melodic, chill vibe that has Denzel lifting up a woman who was molested at the age of 5 as he offers to pray with and for her. Speaking on the woman, he says, “You, swallowing all of your pride/ Won’t, let anybody inside/ As you cry me a thousand lakes on my shoulder blade, I say/ Everything’s gonna be okay/ I’ma old tight ’til I see the next day with you.” A beautiful opening verse. The interesting thing on this track is he actually sings about Taboo being a person on the hook with, “Welcome to the darker side of taboo/ All I’ve got is permanent scars and tattoos.” He goes on, “Take another step in the path that you choose/ Make a bad choice in your path then you lose.” Much like J. Cole’s recent album, KOD, Denzel warns his audience to choose wisely in the decisions they make, because he’s definitely made some wrong ones and has to live with “permanent scars” for the rest of his life.
But immediately after the track ends, we get “BLACK BALLOONS.” The song is a perfect follow-up to the subject matter detailed on the album’s opener, and contains great guest verses from Goldlink and Twelve’Ien. Denzel depicts inner demons, or scars, that one endures through life in the form of black balloons. He says, “Black balloons, over my head/ Let it float, let it float, let it float, let it float, let it float, let it float by me.” Letting the demons float over one’s head could end in tragedy (choosing the wrong path), but letting the demons (balloons) float by signifies one choosing the right path. And that’s just two tracks in! Denzel Curry has already tied in concepts flawlessly on the opening two tracks. Denzel spends the next two songs confidently boasting about how his decisions have put him in a position of being financially stable. “CASH MANIAC” and “SUMO” are by far the most positive and uplifting tracks on this record. “CASH MANIAC” is an old-school ‘90’s groove that is a much different sound from what Denzel fans are used to, but it’s a refreshing change and shows off his versatility in hip hop styles. “SUMO” then comes in and blows the eardrums out of our heads. It’s an absolute banger that I don’t doubt will forever get the Denzel fans to rage in the pit at his every show. The song itself is about Denzel being the hottest artist in the game, and because of that, his pockets are getting too big they’re “sumo”. My favorite bar off this track has to be,
“Rada-rada-rada-rada-rada/ Never gave a fuck about a dolla/Mo’ money mean mo’ problems/ Pray for me to fall like autumn/ ‘Cause I got it on my own with no help mane/ Got a bag and invested in myself mane.”
So confident you can’t help but believe in the man! The track was the lead single for TA1300.
We then hear Denzel on the second act, Gray, continue from where the first act left off: confident. “SUPER SAIYAN SUPERMAN” opens up Act II. Let’s just take a second to appreciate this song title. He combined super saiyan (DragonBall Z reference to when a character evolves) with Superman, arguably the most powerful superhero ever created.
And as the title suggests, Denzel goes super saiyan. It’s by far the shortest cut on the record, but Denzel flows impeccably well over the futuristic trap beat. Aside from the song title being super dope, the hook on this thing is extremely addictive. I dare you to not get it stuck in your head: “Super saiyan, nah/ Curry got the hair like a super saiyan, yuh uh/ You the man, nah/ Pockets lookin’ fatter than a Buddha man, yuh uh/ Ricky Tan, uh/ All my kicks fly like I’m Jackie Chan, uh yuh.” For you Rush Hour II fans, you’ll appreciate this track even more with those references.
“SWITCH IT UP” is next, and it couldn’t come at a better time in the album as it falls practically in the middle of Gray. The chorus has Denzel stating, “That n***a raw, that n***a green, switch it up/ That n***a lost, he in the lead, switch it up/ I’ma get money by any means, run it up.” This could have several connotations. One: it could be talking about bipolar disorder in switching up one’s mood constantly. Two: He’s telling people who would do anything to obtain money to switch up their lifestyles. Three: he’s talking to friends he had in the past who ended up turning on him once he started to gain popularity. Either way you want to interpret this hook, the song acts as a perfect interlude to switching up the mood and vibe of the separate acts (the song also slaps HEAVY). Before this track, every song had Denzel looking at the positives in life. After “SWITCH IT UP,” the tracks get progressively darker, both aesthetically and lyrically. The next track, “MAD I GOT IT,” is a clear transition and a statement to the listener that we’re heading into a dark place. Denzel begins by speaking on his progression as a person and how his success is no accident. He works every day to be a better man as he tells us, “I’ma bout to be on the upper echelon/ N****s gon’ hate on the man that I become.” The chorus might be his most clever on the record as he sings, “That’s your chick, but not my chick/ Cause she got mileage/ At your head, but not my head/ Cause I drop knowledge/ You glad when I never had shit/ But mad I got it.” Here he tells us that he only pursues women with low “mileage”, or a woman who doesn’t sleep around, as his doubters envy the women who “got mileage”. He also states here that his haters can have the chick with mileage, since he’s going to continue to drop knowledge. In other words, while others might be filled with lust or envy, Denzel is dropping albums and spreading his own truth to the world. Quite the entendre. The final verse nosedives the listener into a foreshadowing of what’s to come on the dark side as he spits, “I wear this mask everyday – Stanley Ipkiss/ Realistic views, a pessimistic blues/ I sing along, who’s got me on my crip shit/ Lipstick, long kiss from the devil lips/ Moonlit, two hits from the cannabis.” Aside from making a Mask reference, it’s clear his state of mind is starting to turn from this self-confident man to someone who realizes there’s a lot of horrible things happening around him, and to cope with it he takes a hit of weed.
The hook begins. “Babe, when you hear the sirens sound/ When the karma come back down, don’t let me down/ Babe, there’s a time to stand your ground/ Even if one of them sounds, don’t let me down.” Denzel had this to say in an interview with HotNewHipHop on the hook: “When I wrote the hook, it was from the perspective of God. The perspective of God is: when shit hits the fan, don’t let me down because I know you can be stronger than that.” It puts a new perspective on this hook for someone who didn’t know its meaning previously. At the end of his first verse, he had my laughing with the line, “Talking about ‘let’s make a fort’/ Talking about ‘let’s make it great.’” Of course he’s speaking on Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, but he even ties in the new craze of 2018: Fortnite. He relates building a fort to building a wall, similarly to what our Commander-In-Chief has suggested. The highlight for me on this track comes in J.I.D’s verse when he says,
“Oh say, can you see a hundred dead bodies in the street?/By the dawn’s early light, double Sprite and an R.I.P. tree/ So proudly, lights gleam, let the gun blaow in the night-time/ Of the slum house, little drum bump with the one thousand/ Come-come, here they come.”
He speaks on the racial injustices in this country in terms of the rising rates of police brutality of unarmed citizens. To do that, he recites the two opening lines of “The National Anthem” with “Oh Say, can you see” and “By the dawn’s early light”. Yeesh! To close out Act II, we have “CLOUT COBAIN.” Rather than me explain this song, I’ll let Denzel share its true meaning.
Remember at the beginning when I said I listened to Act III in an airport terminal? Well, here we are: Act III, Dark. My personal favorite act on this album. Each track is so ominous, yet incredibly hard-hitting. The production on each of these 4 tracks is absolute insanity. We open with “THE BLACKEST BALLOON.” Even before the lyrics hit you, you feel as though you’re entering into a horror movie. So what does Denzel open with? “OOH, OOH, FEEL LIKE A HORROR MOVIE!/ OOH, OOH, WHY MY BROTHER CALLIN’ TO ME?!” As hard as the production is, the lyrics are even heavier. Back in 2014, Denzel lost his brother, Treon Johnson, to police brutality. And on this track, you can hear the desperation in his voice as he cries out to his brother.
But the song is more than an ode to his brother; it’s about the biggest demon (aka the blackest balloon) we allow to linger throughout our lives. For Denzel, it’s his brother. For the music industry, it’s abuse of drugs, as he states, “LOOK AT MY EYES, LET THE BEAT RIDE/ AIN’T SHIT CHANGED SHIT LIL PEEP DIED/ ON THE SOUTHSIDE, IT’S SUICIDE/ IN A BOX WITH A SUITE AND TIE.” Let’s first marvel at the fact he just rhymed “suicide” with “suit and tie”, as the two correlate with “suicide” representing purposeful death and “suit and tie” representing a funeral. Frisson!!! But here, he states that the end result for celebrities, or anyone for that matter, abusing drugs to cope with other problems can be a casket. Several big-name hip hop artists were very vocal about changing their drug-induced lifestyles after Lil Peep overdosed in 2017, but as Denzel says, “ain’t shit changed.” “THE BLACKEST BALLOON” leads perfectly into the next song, “PERCS.” This was the second single leading up to the album’s release. After calling out rappers who continue to abuse hardcore drugs like percocets on “THE BLACKEST BALLOON”, Denzel loudly announces on “PERCS”, “ALL Y’ALL N****S FU’ AS FUCK/ I’M ULT AND I DON’T FUCK WITH YOU IF YOU AIN’T US/ IN ME I TRUST/ I TURN THESE N****S INTO COSMIC DUST.” I love the line of “In me I trust.” Such a simple, yet powerful statement of braggadocio. On the hook, he goes off per usual as he spits, “ON TREE, I DO NOT FUCK WITH THE PERCS/ I BARELY FUCK WITH THE EARTH/ ON ME, INDUSTRY N****S THE WORST/ ACTING LIKE THEY FROM THE DIRT/ ON ME, I DO NOT FUCK WITH THE PERCS/ I BARELY FUCK WITH THE EARTH/ ON TREE, ALL OF THEM N****S I BIRTH TRY TO PUT ME IN A HEARSE.” The word “Tree” here is being used as a nickname to reference his brother, Treon. He also says that he feels like he’s separated himself from the music world he’s grown into to focus on himself and what he’s setting out to do. The next song, “VENGEANCE,” features one of the more inventive hip hop artists today: JPEGMAFIA.
Denzel’s incredible flow, matched with JPEGMAFIA and ZillaKami’s energy, make the track go. Denzel opens the song up: “WHO THE FUCK YOU THINK YOU TRYNA CREEP ON?/ PUT A N***A IN A BLACK NISSAN/ I’M THAT N***A FREDDY WOULDN’T SLEEP ON/ CATCH A N***A IN THE BUSHES DOING RECON.” Essentially, he’s making a bold statement by saying anyone who tries to creep on Denzel as he lives out his personal life is going to need a body bag. This statement is capitalized at the end of the verse with, “PUT YOUR ASS IN THE ICU/ INTENSIVE CARE, UNIT/ IF A N***A KEEP SHOOTIN’, BITCH!” Don’t mess with Zel, just don’t. Then, JPEGMAFIA hops on the beat,
“MADE IT PAST TWENTY FIVE/ I’M SET, BITCH, LET ME DIE BET YOU RESPECT ME WHEN I CHECK IN WITH THAT FORTY-FIVE/ SLIDE, RIDE, THIS THAT HOMICIDE/ PULL UP TO THE SIDE, LET THAT MAN RETIRE/ I AIN’T DRAKE, THIS AIN’T 6IX, ISSA 9INE, STICKY, BLICKY, IRON!”
If you ain’t shitting yourself and/or laughing your ass off at these bars, hip hop isn’t for you, sorry. To put the cherry on top, ZillaKami comes in with a closing verse that would make anyone want to get up and rage. With his extremely strong vocal influxion, he spits, “PUT YOUR BLACK ASS IN A DUFFLE BAG/ AND SLIDE OFF IN THE HOPES IT’S A CLOSED CASKET/ MY PRESCENCE ALONE CAN EXTERMINATE MASSES”. ZillaKami picks up where JPEGMAFIA left off here with the dark themes of robbery, murder and laying a body to rest. He then delivers screamo-like closing bars that send the song off into another dimension as he yells, “IT’S THE WARDOG, SON/ FIVE-STAR GENERAL, TEN-HUT/ IN THE BOTTOM OF HELL I CLUTCH/ HANDS COVERED IN BLOOD AND RUST/ NO N***A CAN TAKE MY SOUL/ DROP DEAD, THEM HEADS WILL ROLL!” Me typing these lyrics out doesn’t do the verses any justice. Please, listen for yourself. In fact, here’s a video of all three artists performing the track for the first time live.
And finally, the finisher: “BLACK METAL TERRORIST”.
“FINISH ‘EM ZEL, FINISH ‘EM ZEL/I GIVE EM HELL/ WON’T WISH ‘EM WELL/ FINISH ‘EM ZEL, FINISH ‘EM ZEL/ I RAISIN’ HELL/ SEND THEM TO HELL…”
Please find screenshots below of me texting a good friend of mine from college as we simultaneously listened to whatever happens next on this track.
On verse one, Denzel supersonically spits,
“BACK AND I’M DARK AND MYSTERIOUS/ LAUGHING AWAY TIL I DO SOMETHING SERIOUS/ ATTITUDE ONLY IMPERIOUS/ REST ALL MY ENEMIES LIKE I’M INSIDIOUS/ INSIDE I’M FEELING SO HIDEOUS/ FUCK EVERYBODY, I MURDER YOU IDIOTS/ I AM A LITTLE PERFIDIOUS/ FUCK A CIVILIAN, WE’RE NOT EQUIVALENT/ I AM A LITTLE DELIRIOUS/ SUCK MY BALLS, STOMACH/ DROP BOMBS, ISLAMIC/ FLOW ULTRASONIC/ I HEAR THAT LIFE IS A BITCH/ I HEAR THAT LIFE IS A BEAST/ LIFE IS A FREAK ON THE LEASH/ I AM THE MARK OF THE BEAST.”
On verse two, Denzel, also, supersonically spits:
“TORTUOUSLY, KILLIN’ MY INFIDELS EFFORTLESSLY/ WANT TO IMPEDE, THE P-O-P-E-D-E-A-D/ DEAM ‘EM, I DO IT PROFESSIONALLY/ ASSASIN’S CREED, YOUR MAJESTY, THE AFTER IS NOT HAPPILY/ HER BODY IN FACTORIES, MY UGLY LIFE TRAGEDY/ I’M THAT JOKE, FACE TATS ON PERISCOPE, FUCK A TELESCOPE/ CAREFUL MY ANGEL A HIGHER HOPE, I DESIRE ROPE, UH!/ I’M GONNA LIVE BY MY CONFIDENCE/ I’M GONNA DIE BY MY ARROGANCE/ HEAVEN AND HELL IS IRRELEVANT/ I BE THE BLACK METAL TERRORIST.”
Here’s a video of Denzel teasing this track for the first time Summer 2017 via Instagram:
The closing track has Denzel boasts declaring he’s the best in the rap game, without question, and that he could body anyone who would attempt to take him on. It has him rhyming “mysterious,” “imperious,” “insidious,” “hideous,” “idiots,” “perfidious” (I had to look up what this word even meant), “equivalent” and “delirious.” He talks about dropping bombs like he’s Islamic. He touches on a concept brought up in ‘SWITCH IT UP” by calling life a “bitch” and a “beast.” He says that life is on a leash, and that he’s in control by stating he’s “the mark of the beast,” which is a reference to the power the devil can have over one’s life. Essentially, he’s saying he’s the dominant figure as he has life on a leash. It’s the darkest way possible of saying you’re in control of your life. That’s all in one verse!! The second has Denzel showcasing just how in control of his life he is. He is so confident in himself as a person and artist that he says, “I’m gonna live by my confidence and die by my arrogance.” Oh right, and for the last minute of the track, there’s a beat switch that feels as if Denzel is taking off in a supersonic UFO.
What can I say about this album that I haven’t already. It’s my early favorite for Album of the Year, which is crazy after hearing Kids See Ghosts. I thought for sure that was a lock for AOTY.. I guess Denzel had different ideas. TA13OO is a masterpiece. I have only grown to love these tracks more with each listen. I will admit, this album will not be for everyone. It can be extremely aggressive, but I think it works flawlessly with Denzel Curry. There is nothing that this guy can’t do with his music. I loved Imperial, but nothing would’ve prepared me for what was going to happen on this project. It’s forward-thinking, conceptual, has incredible guest verses, jaw-dropping production and addictive hooks. He is the real deal, and I’m so glad he took his time with this project. It truly paid off.
Favorite Tracks: BLACK METAL TERRORIST, THE BLACKEST BALLOON, CLOUT COBAIN, MAD I GOT IT