LATE PASS Mixtape Review-Imperial by Denzel Curry
Everyone should like Denzel Curry. If you’re a hip hop purist than you hate biters, people who can easily be traced into others. Success breeds copying so you can find a lot of rappers in New York who sound like Jay and a lot of yelling Atlanta dudes who sound like Waka (lotta Drakes out there). I dare anyone to look into the history of Florida (Curry is from Florida) hip hop and put Curry under one branch of someone’s tree. He’s totally unique in delivery with a flow that can tighten up to a speed bag pace or loosen up without losing any diction.
Imperial is ten songs with no filler. The hooks are all catchy and usually meaningful (example: This Life). The topics aren’t always what you expect and go in interesting directions while following a clearly understandable perspective. Narcotics sounds like the glint of cold steel and (produced by the Suicide Boys) feels like a trap anthem but it’s about the assumption that he deals with from the police. It’s menacing as hell and begging you to connect it in your mind to a song about hardcore dealing…but that’s just perception. Another icy banger is Knotty Head featuring Rick Ross produced (like most of the songs) by Ronny J & FNZ. This one is official bluster; twisting weed, not giving an F, doing whatever you want to do…perfect for a Ross feature. Curry also has the line “My pockets on Andy Milonakis” which I can’t get enough of.
Just like Knotty Head fits Ross and creates a great Carroll City connection, Zenith is ideal for Joey Badass. It’s the species of warped boom bap beauty (from Ronny J x FNZ x Freebase) that any lyricist lives for. The elements are simple enough to give the rapper a clear stage but it knocks hard enough to make a gorgeous song. Joey continues the Method Man-like characteristic of sounding way more dialed in on other people’s songs. I love that he is a feature killer, it keeps us from forgetting how utterly dope he is.
If you are looking for trademark Denzel Curry moments, this project is full of them. Sick and Tired is dark, frustrated, and paranoid. People are looking at him like a target because he is doing well so he has to protect himself as well as his family from that, not to mention duck the confines of the law. My favorite song on the mixtape is Story No Title where he launches violent disagreement with his peers “How the F_ the rap game become a beauty pageant? Candy @$$ rappers tryin’ to sound like Atlanta b/c they got no identity. I’m off the top like O-Ren Ishii v. Uma Thurman…” It’s a statement to his audience outlining the difference between Denzel Curry and other listening experiences. It’s a story with no title because the title will come later or not, the point is the story and the story is unique. A great title without a good story is a letdown. Curry vows not to be that. Pure Enough also builds on this conversation.
If Tomorrow’s Not Here is a perfect way to end the album. It reminds me of the last song on Goodie Mob-Soul Food (The Day After); thickly soulful, chunky and thoughtful. By track ten (Tomorrow’s Not Here) Denzel Curry is perfectly defined along with all of his fears. Even those of us who are hearing him for the first time on Imperial know exactly who he is and that’s such a brilliant relief.
Stream or download Imperial below: