Last year Denzel Curry dropped one of the most cutting-edge hip-hop albums of the year in TA13OO; this year he returns with new intentions and new sounds that may not hold the contextual meaning of the predecessor, but that was never the plan. ZUU is all about the hits and Denzel does that better than just about anyone these days.
Denzel Curry is one of the hottest names out of Florida’s rap scene, building his underground stripes for years before his eventual awakening into the mainstream on 2015’s smash hit Ultimate. Since then it’s been a whirlwind for Denzel who has gone from strength to strength as the Clout (Cobain) rose with 32 Zel, Imperial and eventually TA13OO.
After TA13OO came out I was expecting a quite 2019 from Denzel simply because of the sheer focus and levels of detail that had gone into the album; I felt he had earned a rest. Luckily, Denzel didn’t think so and that work rate is probably why he is rapidly becoming one of hip-hop’s most popular figures.
On May 8th, Denzel dropped the lead single of this album in the form of RICKY, one of the hardest rap songs I have heard all year and a sure-fire contender for single of the year. The beat is explosive and bass-heavy while Denzel’s performance is typically cold and to-the-point; serving up a great hook and hard-hitting verses that make you feel like he is stepping on the proverbial neck of the competition.
The whole album came just over three weeks later and I can safely say that it lives up to the hype train that RICKY ensured we all boarded. It’s a celebratory homage to his state and a whole heap of fun. It actually reminds me quite a lot of Vince Staples’ FM! that was released last year in that it wears it’s colours proud and slaps really hard.
ZUU is absolutely littered with technical solidarities here that all piece together to make hits. The hooks are great and memorable, the verses are aggressive and full of attitude, the features deliver and bring a fresh flavour to the tracks they appear on; and last but not least the production is hard as fuck as well as being impressively unique. Tay Keith’s beat on AUTOMATIC is wobbly and trippy while still managing to bop in a hardcore trap atmosphere.
What makes Denzel Curry so special I think is that even if he has a bar that isn’t particularly hard, he makes it pure titanium with his delivery. Normally a line like “used to take LSD but now my whole life’s a trip” wouldn’t be that great, but Zel has such a captivating way of delivering his verses that it becomes impossible to dislike. With that being said, weak lines are pretty few and far between here given just how abstract and diverse Curry can be with his lyrics.
I envisage this album being blasted from the speakers all summer long; hits like SPEEDBOAT, WISH and CAROLMART are designed for that sunny setting. Meanwhile you’ve got SHAKE 88 which is just god damn hilarious really, the hook is catchy and that prelude part about what we need to know about “a bitch like me” is brilliant. It’s really hard to fault this album when it comes to crafting together big time bangers.
Earlier in the review I spoke about going hard as fuck, well I introduce to you the last song on the album, P.A.T. featuring PlayThatBoiZay. The beat is actually disgusting, that’s the only word that comes to mind with it and what I LOVE about Denzel making songs like this is his vocal variation. At the start of the hook he goes almost growly and deathcore but then alters into quirky ‘Soundcloud Rapper’ soon after. Get you a man who can do both.
All in all really this album serves it’s purpose almost to perfection. It is punchy, ideal for summer bumping and keeps Denzel’s name on people’s lips for when he takes his next conceptual plunge. He has huge hits on here as well as great skits and interludes that help portray the personality not just of Denzel, but of his city and the album that is devoted to the city. He takes hometown pride, adds a sprinkle of bravado, a dash of introspection and a whole lot of fun to make this cocktail known as ZUU; and let me tell you, it tastes damn good.