Where last year’s Taboo found itself caught between ignorant, mosh-ready anthems, SoundCloud rap mockery, and socially conscious imagery (a combination that was only occasionally purposeful), Denzel Curry’s breezy, soncially consistent new album Zuu cuts off pretty much all the fat — and ditches the capital “C” concept ambitions, instead opting to provide memorable hooks on nearly every proper track. First single “Ricky” sets the blueprint, with producer FnZ laying down some fat, bouncing bass syncopating two alternating steel drum notes compressed to the point of sounding industrial. Curry goes off, but the subject matter is decidedly tender — the story of acting as a surrogate parent interspersed with repeated advice from mom and dad. Curry’s community, Carol City — and all of Miami-Dade County — becomes the concept, with Curry stepping up in a post-Kodak Black world to be the emissary of Florida rap (much as YG has done for the West Coast on his latest). “Dreads to the top / Gold in my mouth / Whoaday,” he intones, and that specific combo isn’t frivolous. Neither is the guest list here, made of all Florida rappers, or more specifically, Miami rappers. Which means of course Rick Ross shows up (“Birdz”) and Curry has the good ass sense to find him the heaviest, most plodding beat to lord over.
If last year’s sneak ZillaKami feature wasn’t enough to convince you — Curry’s ability to arrange features has become a rare strength in a generation of rappers who will throw pretty much anyone on a track for clout. Little flourishes, like the “Maybach music” tag preceding Rick Ross’s appearance, or the terrifying choral interlude of the laid-back “Speedboat,” all add dimension — a new lens through which to view a song, or some subtle humor. “My dog didn’t make it past twenty-one / So I gotta make it past twenty-four” Curry nonchalantly sings, his inflection and pronunciation lending the lyric real pathos, while on “Carolmart” he bends the vowels of the words “trill” and “fresh” until they sound the same. And with the isolated chipmunk’d vocals of the “Shake 88” hook, he intimates a nursery rhyme. Really, no moment of the 29 minutes that comprise Zuu is wasted. Each song flows into the next — from “Ricky” to “Wish” the bass maintains its unifying character, even as a pronounced glimmering instrumental will sub-in for a harsher soundscape. Curry’s trademark sing-shouting soars over it all, making this another personalized triumph for ‘Zel.
Published as part of What Would Meek Do? | Issue 9