Denzel Curry – Florida rapper best known for his gritty, dark and raw rap style, has dropped a short but memorable project – with arguably one of the best producers in the music industry: Kenny Beats.
‘Unlocked’ is the record’s title, and it’s also the best way to describe this listening experience, as each track delves into different dimensions of hip-hop. It’s also an impressive platform demonstrating the creative dexterity of both the artists and their respective arts.
Denzel Curry, who built his name on trap-style beats and heavy hitting lyrics, showcases his talent throughout, tackling incredibly versatile beats and rap styles. Meanwhile Kenny Beats – known for tailoring his beat production to the artists requests, making him arguably one of the most unique producers to date – flexes his production nous, rolling out beat after beat, each totally unique and different to what’s come before. The chemistry between Kenny and Denzel s akin to that between Will Smith and Jeff Townes, when they were known as DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – in the sense that their friendship and goofiness is what elevates their music to a level that’s different to other partnerships.
Lyrical complexity is prevalent with Denzel’s previous work. This is lacking somewhat in ‘Unlocked’, but that’s not what this project’s all about – as its lighthearted cartoonish samples and satirical lyrics show. On ‘Take_It_Back_v2’, for example, Denzel raps “ Little brother, don’t make me reach out and touch ya / I don’t got candy but i’ll turn your head to Gushers, sucka”, which might seem like an empty line, but when the fast delivery is paired up with Kenny’s speedy percussion and breakneck boom bap beat, it’s lent added depth.
‘Pyro’ is the standout track of the project, its heavy bass and slow tempo (Denzel’s natural habitat, in which he shines most) marrying up with Curry’s sharp one-liners and quick snappy remarks to explode with that unspoken understanding of how lyrics sync with a gritty beat. “Viewer discretion upon my beat selection / You came with aggression, now your neck gon’ need protection” – these two lines stand out sharp from the tempo, transporting us to a crowd in the streets of Carol City, watching a rap battle unfold…where Denzel is absolutely destroying his opponent.
In ‘Diet_’ Curry showcases his inspirations, as mid-track he swiches his flow to mimic that of DMX – arguably one of the hardest-hitting rappers to ever grace the mic. Using raw, strained vocals, in a passionate yet subtle nod to the ‘90s hip-hop scene, ‘Diet_’ is one of the few tracks on this project with a clear structure, no interruptions or distortions. Again, heavy bass and a down-low tempo amplify the aggression in Denzel's delivery.
The beat itself ends with a high-pitched distorted scream: “You already know what time it is, it’s the motherf***ing championship”. indicating the commencement of a rap battle. As with ‘Pyro’, it’s Denzel’s bread and butter.
‘Unlocked’ is accompanied by an animated short, following Denzel and Kenny downloading themselves into a computer as their album has been leaked. They go on an adventure to recover the project, entering different realms of the internet, each containing its own unique art styles – with nods to Samurai Jack and classic Japanese animations – until they reach the final boss. It’s a new way of experiencing an album, and they absolutely nailed it.
This is a playful project, not afraid to dabble with creativity but also showcasing both Denzel’s lyrical ability and Kenny’s creative dexterity, both artists’ visions. It’s as if they created a glitch in the hip-hop matrix, and one that would be welcome again soon.
Words: Ramy Abou-Setta
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