Denzel Curry - ZUU

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Just a year removed from TA1300, a record that saw Denzel Curry explore darker and more personal territories, the 24-year-old south Florida MC returns with his fourth studio album. While not losing the experimental eye Curry had on TA1300, this new project sees him taking a discernibly more party ready direction.  Do not be mistaken, however, the slight change in tone is not indicative of a drop in quality. As Denzel Curry has proven very capable of, these tracks are fierce, energetic, and ferociously creative. Unlike his peers coming from the Soundcloud era, Curry is a diversified, forward thinking artist who also channels the classic MCs. And at 29 minutes, ZUU is a chiseled, no-nonsense, high-octane victory lap for Curry who is progressively earning his spot amongst the top rappers of this current hip-hop landscape.

While his last record was a look into his inner psyche, ZUU comments on the environment that birthed Curry. While at times reading like a love letter to Miami, Curry also comments on the hardships he has experienced in Carol City. It’s a setting heavy record that sheds light on an underrated scene in the hip-hop community. The opening title track showcases Curry’s equally impressive talents to both craft melodically sound hooks while also throwing down a fierce, hard-hitting verse. His sense of melody is also demonstrated on the album’s second single “Speedboat,” a track that lyrically examines Curry’s new found success while staying grounded in the dire circumstances he has known too well. “My dawg didn’t make it to 21, so I gotta make it past 24,” he states, a reference to the tragic death of his friend and fellow South Florida rapper XXXTENTACION.

The metallic, clashing atmosphere of this record and past Denzel Curry projects has much to attribute to the production work of FNZ, a duo hailing from Australia. On “Birdz” featuring Rick Ross, frenetic synths and industrial tinted drums give chaotic energy to Curry’s memories of inescapable violence. “Carolmart” is intoxicating with swirling, hypnotic synths and bristling hi-hats.

The lead single and highlight “Ricky” is peak Denzel Curry. A booming low-end, razor-sharp flow from Curry, and massive hook all come together with ease. Curry gives nods to his familial ties and friends who have stuck with him since the beginning: “My daddy said. ‘trust no man but your brothers and never leave your day ones in the gutter.”

If anything, one too many spoken word interludes might have impeded this records ongoing momentum. Still, it’s hard to point out a weak track on this slim, no-frills project from Denzel. While embracing Curry’s roots, ZUU commands multiple listens due to its nonstop energy, charismatic performances, and crowd winning hooks. It’s not his most ambitious project to date, but it’s hard to complain when an album goes this hard.

Grade: A-

Matt Marciniec