Scattered. Angry. Experimental. Brilliant. Describing the young 20-year-old Florida native’s new double EP can be pretty much summed up with those four words.
Denzel Curry is one of Hip-Hop’s ‘new generation’, starting off in SpaceGhostPurrp’s now legendary “Raider Klan” before moving out on his own, this rapidly rising star then became hot property with the release of his underground hit single “Threatz” and album “Nostalgic 64”. Two years on, and this new double EP “32 Zel / Planet Shrooms” is Denzel’s next stand-alone statement, showing off his charisma, skill and his ability to hold our attention for the duration of a very impressive piece of work.
Part one, “32 Zel”, finds Denzel in scathing form. His opening 1-2 punch of “Chief Forever” and “Envy Me” will immediately appease his existing fans with high-energy verses and wonky instrumentation abundant. Both tracks simply sliding into one another, leaving no rest-bite and carrying out an all-out assault on your senses.
This is “32 Zel” summed up in general; a constantly moving force with only a few moments of relaxation. It’s like a tank driving over your house.
Denzel then gives us new single “Ultimate”, produced by “Threatz” beat maker Ronny J…
Honestly, an immediate favourite on this album and will be in Denzel’s sets for a long time to come. Simply put, he just kills this beat. It’s immediate, straight-for-the-jugular type hip-hop, with Denzel almost out of breath by the end of it. Stunning stuff.
The rest of “32 Zel” slowly transitions into a more trippy, dare I say A$AP Rocky-esque pop style, with catchy single “Ice Age” being another highlight, Denzel yelling “All Day, All Day” and talking about how cold-blooded he can be towards people he doesn’t have time for, lyrically in keeping with the rest of the EP. It’s your usual thematic, but what helps”32 Zel” is Denzel’s strong delivery and fantastically weird instrumentation.
The real strength however, lies with the second half, “Planet Shrooms”.
After some lovely washed ambient tones, opener “Past the Wudz” enters boom-bap mode with some skewered drums and twinkly keys, something that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Pro Era record actually, before moving into “Underwater”, which enters a more low-fi space with booming kicks and static claps.
Both tracks set the tone for the second half, every song drenched in vinyl crackle and that nostalgic feedback noise you got when watch recorded footage on a JVC camera back in the 90s. It’s definitely Denzel’s most experimental collection of songs to date, and by far the most interesting and musical, throwing left turns and sudden twists in every direction.
Take the frantic title track “Planet Shrooms” for instance. It starts with an almost warped version of Chicago footwork, which then descends into an Aphex-Twin like breakdown of scattered drums, synths and time signatures, with Denzel’s voice draped in murky fuzz. It’s like being submerged in machine oil that just caught fire.
A mile a minute hi-hat and click-snap combo onslaught greets us in “Bwoli”, with it’s transcendent pads and vocal snippets to counter the percussion, a throwback to his cloud-rap days and homage to legends “Main Attrakionz”. Then there’s “Smoke 2049”, which I’m pretty sure actually samples legendary drum and bass staple “Timeless” By Goldie, before finishing on the brilliant “Void”, which boasts some excellent vocal performances from Leonardo Safari and Fortbowie and an extended guitar solo to cap things off.
Denzel Curry’s contagious energy that comes through on “32 Zel”, and his musical versatility shown on “Planet Shrooms”, means this double EP is a winner. Both sides have strong identities, mashed together schizophrenically, jaggedly flowing from one idea to the next. It’s purposefully meant to throw you off and keep you on your toes. Denzel doesn’t want you thinking he’s a flavour of the month after all.