Words About Music
Last year, Florida rapper Denzel Curry put together an excellent set of tracks on his “Imperial” project, which was one of my favorites of 2016. While we await the proper return of the Black Metal Terrorist (probably another full-length project in 2018 is my guess), Zel graced our collective turn-up playlists this past summer with “13,” a 5-song EP that only lasts, you guessed it, 13 minutes. While it doesn’t totally deliver in terms of bringing a lot of content to the table, what it does bring is a short set of stunning, underground-rap bangers that fans of artists like Bones and $uicideboy$ should definitely be checking out.
“13” kicks off with the murky, intense, Eric Dingus-produced “Bloodshed,” which introduces Denzel’s speedy, clear flow. It’s a dark song that reiterates his ability to combine technical talent with memorable, violent lyricism. It’s a fantastic intro to this short group of songs, even if it isn’t as clear a banger as his now-legendary “Ultimate” or one of his other songs, like “Gook” or “ULT.”
The punk rock energy of Denzel’s music really shines on the second song, the 96-second “Hate Government,” which was produced by the same team that worked on a majority of “Imperial.” It’s a radically virulent track, with Curry coming right out the gate with the line “Anti-American, I’m pro-Assata,” referring to American refugee Assata Shakur, a Black Panther who was accused of killing a cop and left the country for Cuba several years ago. There isn’t much to this song, unfortunately, but it’s a visceral burst of dark energy that reaffirms Denzel’s dislike for authority and the status quo.
This is followed by “Equalizer,” which was produced by and features Ronny J. It’s a more lo-fi cut, which is a direct result of the fact that it was an off-the-dome freestyle that was recorded without a microphone. I’m not a huge fan of Ronny J’s trippy vocal outro on this song, especially considering how short this EP is. I wish that this song was more of a Denzel-centered song rather than a song that sounds like a Ronny J track featuring Denzel Curry. Regardless, it justifies its existence with its classically memorable hook and rapid-fire lyrical barrage.
“Heartless” is another weird track for Denzel, with his flow taking on a more singsongy orientation. It’s probably the catchiest track here, and I love how it’s an ambitious step forward for the rapper, who usually brings a booming, straightforward, loud delivery to his music. Like the previous track, this was a freestyle that Zel recorded without a microphone, cementing the demo-like qualities of this EP as a whole.
The final song on this project, “Zeltron 6 Billion,” is the most exciting for me, mostly because it features a rare verse from Virginia rapper/producer Lil Ugly Mane, a.k.a. Travis Miller, a.k.a. Bedwetter, a.k.a. Shawn Kemp. This dude has put out some of my favorite musical projects of the past few years and he is truly a musical Renaissance man, so it’s awesome to hear him put together a verse for this project, especially considering that Miller had said he would be retiring the Lil Ugly Mane alias after releasing “Oblivion Access” in late 2015. This song is honestly so fucking dope that it’s a bit difficult to describe, from its knocking beat to the well-delivered verse from Ugly.
As a huge Denzel Curry fan, I’m very excited to hear what he does next. Until we get the next full-length project, this all-too-short EP will definitely serve its purpose as a group of catchy, memorable bangers. Despite the lo-fi aspects of this record, it’s still very well produced and serves to remind anyone who’s forgotten that when it comes to the gritty, disturbing world of underground rap music, Denzel Curry rules the streets.
SCORE — 8.50 out of 10
FAVORITE TRACKS — Bloodshed, Hate Government, Heartless, Zeltron 6 Billion