Home Genres Hip Hop The best of Denzel Curry, past and present

The best of Denzel Curry, past and present

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The best of Denzel Curry, past and present
Image: Josh Brasted / FilmMagic

At only 24 years of age, Denzel Rae Don Curry is a force to be reckoned with. A product of Miami Gardens’ Carol City, the rapper first emerged as a member of the Raider Klan, an underground South Florida collective formed around its de facto leader, SpaceGhostPurpp. Along with its former core members Xavier Wulf and Chris Travis, Curry helped pioneer the burgeoning SoundCloud rap scene, paving the way for hip hop’s new wave of internet-born artists.

In 2013, Curry departed the group following a public fallout and kickstarted his solo career. The move brought about an eccentric brand of rap that blends punk and heavy metal with dancehall, further establishing the rapper as a prominent game-changer. With the arrival of ZUU, his fourth and most aggressive album to date, Curry’s influence is still as strong and present as ever. Without further ado, we look back at five of the rapper’s most notable songs.

“Parents”

A standout on his debut album, Nostalgic 64, “Parents” launches a searing attack on—as you might have guessed—parents. But only the bad ones, as Curry points out. The rapper rides Rem’s glitchy and slightly distorted production with ease while outlining the effects of child neglect and uninvolved parenting.

“Let ’em do whatever, it’s whatever, they endeavor / From the streets to the clubs, to the guns, to the cheddar / ’Til you get a phone call, email, or a letter / That your jit locked up or he dead on the stretcher,” he sneers. Although the song is critical of irresponsible parents, the chorus and its appealing sing-song flow were made for chanting in the club, showcasing Curry’s penchant for crafting left-field hooks that stick.

“Ultimate”

If you’re wondering why “Ultimate” sounds strangely familiar, it’s probably because you might have heard it first through Vine clips of kids flipping bottles, a viral trend which Curry has acknowledged as a blessing in disguise. A rowdy, punk-infused rap production, “Ultimate” ultimately became the rapper’s breakout hit, propelling Curry to rap stardom and onto the charts. Two years after its 2015 release, the song earned him his first gold-certified record.

But its apparent meme-worthiness aside, the track was always destined to be a crowd favorite. Featuring a hard-hitting instrumental by Ronny J, a thrilling beat drop and the rapper’s witty punchlines, the song is an instant classic that’ll live in mosh pits forever.

“ULT”

Curry has become known for his relentless candor, and on the confrontational Imperial banger “ULT”—an abbreviation for “Understanding Life’s Teaching” or “Utilizing Limitless Talent,” whichever you prefer—the rapper puts his views on police brutality and social injustice front and center. Curry moves at a dizzying pace over skittering drums, delivering tightly wound verses that become increasingly snappy over time. He calls out on black-on-black crime and condemns violence against minorities, before summoning his troops to fight for equality. “I raise up black fists as black as the raiders / Arming the gators / Federation is my organization / All relation, no religion, no races / Black to Asian we the nation of ULT,” he spits.

“Clout Cobain”

“Y’all are killing yourselves over materialistic stuff. But y’all don’t really see what’s really going on.” That’s how Curry once summed up the message of “Clout Cobain,” the standout single from his ambitious 2018 project, T413OO (his stylization of the word ‘taboo’). Assuming a contrarian stance against consumerism and clout-chasing isn’t groundbreaking, but the rapper’s take on the issue rings loudly in an age where SoundCloud rappers bask dangerously in their newfound wealth, at the expense of their physical and mental health.

“Clout Cobain” is a good song, but it was its accompanying music video that helped turn it into a phenomenon. The clip, which starred Curry as a clown in a Kurt Cobain-esque striped shirt, visualized the ways in which zealous rap fans delight in the suffering of artists, who are reduced to performers in a circus ring. It delivers a stark message that will resonate for time to come.

“Ricky”

“Ricky” is one of several bangers on ZUU, the album Curry dropped with little ceremony last week. Over a knocking, industrial-edged beat, the rapper connects his success—and the industry’s subsequent envy and bandwagon-jumping—to enduring lessons he’s learned from his parents. It’s a song that reveals why fans have taken to Curry the way they have: He can brag and boast like the best of them, but always with heart and the knowledge that he’s risen to the top with the help of others—whether they be his father Ricky, his “day one homies” or “the man above your head.”

Stream ZUU here.