At Lovebox festival, Denzel Curry surveys the crowd from the stage. He clambers over the barriers and down into the pit - onto someone’s shoulders - creating a throng of rabid festival-goers encircling him. Despite the death pit that’s formed around him, the South Florida rapper barely misses a beat.
The Carol City native came up through his involvement with SpaceGhostPurrp’s Raider Klan, reaching cult status within underground rap for his aggressive triplet flows and boss-level lyrical dexterity. The design school dropout favours trippy psychedelia in both his visuals and musicality - and his last two albums, ‘Nostalgic 64’ (2013) and ‘Imperial’ (2016), saw staggeringly different themes and sonics.
With third LP ‘Taboo’ on the way, we can’t wait to see what one of the most radical talents in rap has up his sleeve.
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You’ve just got off a flight from South Korea, what was it like out there?
It was a live show. Seoul is pretty cool, it’s a good city. Very upscale, urban. I met a lot of polite people out there. Bibimbap is the shit. I had shabu-shabu there as well - they put out boiling water and you cook the food yourself. I was eating squid, a load of octopus.
Could you describe how it was growing up in Carol City? In the UK we tend to think of Florida as being all Palm Beach houses and alligators.
We grew up on the opposite side to the beach. It’s pretty much the gutter part. If you do stay near the beach you’re either well off or you’re Haitian, point blank, period. Carol City was an alright area, and then when I grew older it became a bad area. Every time I go back there, everybody’s doing the same shit. You either find out somebody’s pregnant or somebody died. The same people I grew up with are still hanging on the block.
With the rise of Miami rap at the moment, where do you see yourself fitting into that whole movement?
I feel like I’m the one who kicked down the door for everybody to bombard the game. That’s really how I see myself. Pretty much since I was one of the first people to come up alongside [SpaceGhost]Purrp and everybody, we’re pretty much like OGs in a sense, you know? We made a pathway.
You’ve just re-released your ‘32 Zel’ EP with a verse from Juicy J. As a longtime fan of Three 6 Mafia, what was it like having him guest?
It was gangsta, man, ‘cause really we hit him up so he could be able to clear one of the tracks on that EP, because we sampled one of his old songs - ‘Drinkin N Thinkin’. Not only did he clear the sample but he sent us a record, and then we asked him to get on ‘Ultimate’. Juicy J’s a cool mofo.
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You hooked up with AJ Tracey recently beside West London’s Trellick Tower for the ‘Knotty Head UK Remix’ video. How did you discover AJ?
Well, I knew about him because of his songs he did with Dave and shit. And then we just clicked, you know? We linked up and he ended up doing a remix. I heard it, the shit was fire. We ended up meeting up in London for real, he came to the show. We did the ‘Knotty Head’ remix for the first time there when I was on tour in Europe. Now he’s just a regular homie. He’s cool.
Do you pay attention to the UK rap scene then?
I’m more of a grime person. I like Lord of the Mics. Me and Jme are really tight. He’s a cool guy. Me and Skepta have the same booking agent in the States. The first time I met Jme was in Australia, then when I came back to the UK we went to the studio and we just made some shit and it was cool, man.
Is that gonna see the light of day?!
Mm-hmm, it will. But I won’t be the one releasing it. There’s also a third person involved.
What made you decide to tour with hardcore/punk bands like Trash Talk and Show Me The Body?
Trash Talk are the homies. Like, those are my homeboys. When me and Lee [Spielman] was in Australia he was like, ‘Yo, we got to go on tour together and shit?’ I was like, ‘It’s going to happen one day’. When we did the Illegal Civilization tour and shit, the first half was with Show Me The Body. Then they was like, ‘So, who you want to tour for the West Coast? You got any ideas?’ And I was like, ‘Shit, if we taking Show Me The Body for the East Coast, why don't we just put Trash Talk for the West?’
I was at one of your shows with Show Me The Body and it had a really unique energy, crazy mosh pit.
I’m just very energetic. That’s really what it is. It’s like, electricity. I don’t make it punk intentionally. That’s just how it sounds.
You're signed to the same label as Marilyn Manson, St. Vincent and Iggy Pop. Why do you think your music can fit within those artists and have a broader appeal than just rap?
Because my music is different as fuck. It’s different as hell. When it came down to what I wanted, Loma [Vista] provided everything. And I’m sharing a label with a lot of people that’s multi-talented because it’s not just a rap label. This is just a verse in my arsenal, you know?
When can we expect your forthcoming album, ‘Taboo’?
I can’t tell you when because when it’s almost done, then you’ll know when it’s gonna drop. Me and my friend are coming up with the visual art. Right now, I have ten tracks completed. I like the idea of making a few more and picking the best out of those. I want to make this clear: I don’t make the same projects. All my projects are meant to sound different. Don’t ask me to make the same thing twice, because I won’t.
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Words: Felicity Martin
Photography: Elliot Kennedy
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