In a year where it seemed like good hip-hop could not break into the mainstream, the XXL Freshmen list decided to include Miami rapper Denzel Curry. Most people probably know Curry from Vine since “Ultimate” has become somewhat a meme, but for those who are familiar with his work know he is definitely one of the better upcoming rappers thanks to his aggressive flow and hard hitting lyrics that have helped to define him.
On Imperial, Curry continues to prove why he deserves to get more attention than he has been. Right off the bat with “Ult,” Curry goes off and rarely slows down, making sure to pack as much as he can in just 40 minutes. On this track, Curry goes off on his former mentor, SpaceGhostPurrp, saying that he cannot touch him and his ultimate status. While the beat is not anything amazing, Curry’s flow makes up for it with speed and personality coming out.
“Gook,” which is apparently a term used in Miami to describe someone who is not with the crowd. Curry admits that he never fit in when he was in high school and sets himself from many other rappers, saying he does not drink lean, since it killed A$AP Yams. The song starts a little quiet before exploding with the first verse. The hook on here is also one of the strongest on this entire project.
Curry plays the role of someone involved in a stick up on “Sick and Tired,” one of the darker songs on here. The first two verses see Curry robbing someone so he can support his girl and his unborn child who he wants to have more than he can provide him. The song goes into the dehumanization of black men by the police in the second verse as they begin to get involved. The song ends with Curry taking the perspective of the person being robbed as he vows for revenge, showing the consequences of these crimes that occur in impoverished areas.
This insight into growing up in the projects of Carol City continue onto “Knotty Head,” where he describes his experiences. His wordplay is excellent, opening up with bars like “hair is nappy, knotty/Fuck karate, I got me a shotty/Jumpin’ in the door, kamikaze.” Rick Ross, who is also from Carol City, comes on with one of his best verses in a long time, staying on subject throughout his verse.
“Story: No Title” is another solid track on the importance of the lives of African Americans, even if their stories do not have a title. Even though this is the point of the album where the lyrical themes start to repeat themselves a bit, which is probably the biggest issue I would have with this album. The individual song, however, is still solid even if it could have been built up a little more.
Denzel Curry slows things down a little for “This Life,” a song about balancing rapping with relationships. Despite the slower pace, and the borderline singing on Curry’s part, the song is far from sweet and continues to show Curry as a rougher and flawed person.
The closing track “If Tomorrow’s Not Here,” where Curry leaves us with the simple message to live life like it’s your last day on Earth. The beat on here is definitely one of the best on the entire record, feeling much smoother and natural than some of the others. His lines about Kendrick Lamar’s verse on “Control” and all the rappers who got offended by it was excellent, as well as his Han Solo line. It leaves a great impression and concludes this fast-paced record in the best of ways.
The album is so consistent it is hard to pick a worst track. “Zenith” is probably the most underwhelming just because I expected more from a collaboration with Joey Bada$$ but the beat is still great. Overall, this is a very solid launch pad for Curry to bring his career to some new places. I have high hopes for this guy, he is truly gifted and with some broader horizons he could create something truly great.
Best Tracks: Ult, Gook, Sick and Tired, Knotty Head, If Tomorrow’s Not Here
Worst Track: Zenith