Further proof that he is one of hip-hop's most interesting and progressive MCs...

No-one quite does pure energy like Denzel Curry. Since his breakthrough single 'Ultimate', the South Florida MC has led the wave of lo-fi, genre subverting rappers - a group that have had mixed fortunes in breaking past their 'SoundCloud rap' roots.

Curry is one of the few that’s established himself as a unique voice in a rap scene that increasingly values playlist-ready mundanity. His last album – last year’s 'TA1300' – was easily one the best hip-hop albums of 2018, encapsulating Curry's mastery of the maniacal and more surprisingly, giving us glimpses of vulnerability. 

Less than a year later, Denzel has returned with 'ZUU'. Its eponymous opening track sets the tone for the rest of the album as Curry lets us know, with trademark intensity, where the f*** he is coming from. In short, the MC gives us a snapshot of the place he was born and raised: the 'Zuu' aka Carol City, Florida. Lead single 'RICKY' gives us our first glimpse at the rapper's vulnerability, with the track acting as both a tribute to his deceased brother and a wider insight into Denzel's world.

As with his previous work, Curry's ability to shift between flows and merge different styles is utterly mesmerising. The Rick Ross featuring 'BIRDZ' is a perfect example, as the Florida MC rides the manic and industrial beat with such a calm intensity. Again, the way his flow relentlessly shifts on 'SPEEDBOAT' is pretty incredible, with this track in particular demonstrating his stylistic diversity as an MC. 

On this album, Curry combines what made 'TA13OO' such a unique body-of-work with a far tighter execution. The 30-minute run-time leaves little space for diversion or baggage, and the result is a consistently atmospheric listen. The only downside is that we don't hear quite the same sonic diversity or lyrical vulnerability that we did on 'TA13OO'.

Perhaps the price of a tighter execution is that some other elements have to be reined in, which is maybe how you end up with a track like 'SHAKE 88' - not bad by any means, just a little unadventurous. 

Where last year’s project felt like a window into Curry's mind, this album is about seeing through the artist's eyes. In the vein of rap classics like ‘The Chronic’, ‘Boy In Da Corner’ or ‘Good Kid MAAD City’, ‘ZUU’ is an experience that transports the listener to a specific time and place.

‘ZUU’ is further proof that Denzel Curry is one of hip-hop's most interesting and progressive MCs. 

8/10

Words: Will Rosebury

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