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:
Song of The Year-Winner$ by Scotty ATL featuring Cyhi The Prince produced by Toomp
If someone asked me (no one ever asks me questions this specific) who the next hip hop mega-star from Atlanta will be I would answer Scotty ATL. I’m not saying he’s going to be a name; he’s already a name for people who love hip hop (hasn’t released a subpar project in YEARS). I think he’s heading for “my grandmother knows who he is” status. Winner$ is a great example of why he is that name for me. He just doesn’t ever waste an opportunity.
Here he gets a beat from the production architect of the trap sound (Toomp is so damn slept on) and a fire breathing game changer of a guest verse from the rap machine Cyhi The Prince (If you like what Kanye has been doing just grab as much Cyhi as you can get) and the two forge an incredible melody they never break out of with a hook so gorgeous you could just put the song on repeat.
This comes off of Scotty ATL’s mixtape EP Home Sick which is absolutely great. In five songs he shows that he can do the languid mumble hop that dominates the radio (Let’s Go Swim) give you classic trap(Plug on The Low featuring OJ Da Juiceman) and strip all that away to give you his heart in a show stopping way (My Mind Lately).
Winner$ is a great example of why Scotty wins. He always gets the very best out of his collaborators without giving the outward impression that he is trying to sink their battleship. He’s able to ramp up his sound while maintaining its earnestness. Home Sick is stadium rap but it’s still just Scotty with no pretentious genre-shifting airs or faux depression. I’d rather listen to Winner$ than Ultralight Beam but I like my sh_t mean any-damn-way.
Mixtape Review-Lil Boat by Lil Yachty
The second most tiresome argument in hip hop (intrinsically connected to the first-the street authenticity argument) is definitely the “___ is not hip hop!” argument. The hip hop v. rap argument is a subset of this. While it is logically unnerving like driving a friend around in your Kia while they maintain that this is not a car…a corvette is a car; it does yield benefits. This bubbling hostility attached to almost every new popular artist keeps them hungry and fresh. Drake made so much money last year why should he even try anymore? Well, he can’t escape the criticism of him singing too much or not writing his lyrics. The only way to win against these prevailing winds is to hammer away with more success. Amongst the names you’ll hear filling the space of “___ is not hip hop!” Lil Yachty is #1 in 2016.
At this point, most heads have accepted that whatever Young Thug is doing he’s good at it. What is Yachty even doing? On Lil Boat he creates 2 personalities: the sunny warm and autotune drenched Yachty and the tough talking hard-nosed Lil Boat. The two personas hand songs over to one another over fourteen tracks of weirdo producers’ weirdest beats. I tried to play this in the car and my wife’s first reaction was “I can’t do this much auto-tune for too long.” If I only got one song I made sure it was 1 Night. At the end of it I told my wife about Yachty being a divisive figure and asked her what she thought…after a pause she said “I’m split. This is disgusting but…I love this chorus.” I think that’s a pretty good introduction to Lil Boat.
The hooks are amongst the best you’ll find in music; Wanna Be Us has nothing I remember other than the chorus. 1 Night has verses but they aren’t anything I’d be excited to quote to anyone luckily it is equipped with a chorus you will never shake. Yachty is so weird. He can do a really muted, pretty song like I’m Sorry and a big snarling posse track like the Minnesota remix (with Young Thug, Quavo, & Skippa Da Flippa).
As finger snappin’ fresh and pop friendly as Out Late is the real hip hop head has a sound argument that no quotables exist here, not even a lot of recognizable verses. Make no bones about it, this is hip hop. The mixtape is about living recklessly and never switching up, the thing is it doesn’t sound like what you remember hip hop to be…but isn’t that what we want? I thought we were tired of copycat rappers trying to sound like the greats? Yachty is just Yachty and now he can’t be hip hop cause bars aren’t his strong suit…fine with me. The divisive artist usually wins so I’m not worried. We had this argument before with Kid Cudi and hip hop has changed. Burberry Perry has the most repeat production credits on Lil Boat and truly gets the off kilter exquisiteness of Yachty’s bleeding voice, I hope they push it further. I hope the next mixtape is some elaborately off key Ziggy Stardust hip hop adventure, hopefully even weirder…something it will take us years to figure out.
stream or download Lil Boat below: