Denzel Curry is 24 years old; and already a South Florida legend. His time with SpaceGhostPurp’s Raider Klan ignited an underground movement that’s still clearly felt today (a mix of the grunge era with hip hop). What started in the sunshine state has now extended up along the east coast-and all the way to New York. Rappers such as A$AP Rocky and Ski Mask the Slump God have credited their styles to the Raider Klan.
Curry has undoubtedly been the most critically and commercially successful artist to come out of the South Florida collective. After becoming a meme with the release of “Ultimate;” the 24 year-old quickly garnered appraisal from everyone with 2018’s Taboo, a project that solidified Curry as a bonafide superstar.
With respect from critics and an expanded fanbase, Curry now wants to turn back the clock; and show everyone his roots. He accomplishes this feat on Zuu, an album totally dedicated to Miami. The experience is a lot like Vince Stapes’ FM-short, concise, and to the point. Curry leaves no room for filler, opting to reveal his, and his city’s true colors. Each theme he explores acts as a treasure map for listeners; connecting to one place, and one being.
Despite its simplistic concept, Zuu begins with Curry’s usual introspective songwriting. He describes Carol City through his eyes (“Rep your set, grab a tec/Leave you wet in project”), while acknowledging law enforcement’s constant maltreatment (“In the cut like Gillette/Where they serve and don’t protect”). The subject matter is heavy and informative; all within its short two minutes.
From there, the 24 year-old swiftly delivers bars about his childhood. His father played an enormous role in young Denzel’s life-something that’s efficiently highlighted on the incredibly groovy “Ricky.” The industrial trap style is reminiscent of the early drill days. Except, Curry takes the approach to a whole other level. There’s also an unorthodox bass-line scooting its way through the background of the instrumentation; adding a nice layer to the production.
The swagger Curry exudes on “Wish” is uncanny-portraying a time when rap was all about technique and braggadocio. The beautiful soul sample illustrates a nice change of pace for the Denzel Curry canon. It’s a track that makes me believe the Floridian can literally rap over anything.
The features on Zuu are solely from Florida (Sam Sneak, Kiddo Marv, Ice Billion Berg, PlayThatBoyZai), with Rick Ross bringing the most memorable verse of the bunch on “BIRDZ” (“Snort a line of this I bet you clean your room/Mansions in Atlanta, trophy on the mantle”). The song itself is hard-hitting, grungy, and quite possibly Curry’s best performance of his career. His flow is impeccable, apexing with a chorus that will keep you up at night (“Don’t start none, won’t be none/”Don’t speak, don’t hear, and don’t see none”). The track is Miami at its darkest and most dangerous.
Multiple times throughout, the 24 year-old makes sure to honor the people he’s lost (namely XXXTentacion, and his best friend Tre). Never is this more the case then on “Speedboat,” where Curry wisely interprets our materialistic society as shallow and forgetful (especially when it comes to people we’ve lost). The somber piano tucked behind the 808 drums creates a vulnerability not too often shown on this project. Curry drops the tough guy physique for just a moment, and the results are humbling. It’s a moment reminiscent of Taboo, and all of the murkiness that came with it.
Even in Zuu’s lighter phases, Curry can emanate a comedic side to his upbringing. The hilarious “Yoo” skit is a witty example of South Florida vernacular, while the strip club anthem “Shake 88” features a humorous pre-chorus (“Here’s a little something bout a bitch like me/Rule number one, don’t touch my weave”). It’s an infusion of west coast and southern flavor. It’s Curry curating a sex song in his own style. Most importantly, it’s a break from his darker side.
For the most part, Zuu shies away from becoming too emotional. Instead, Curry presents himself in a reflective state, showing fans (newer ones especially) the full story-where he came from, who inspired him, how he’s gotten here. He paints a full picture without ever overstaying his welcome. Rather, Curry does what he does best on Zuu; making banger, after banger, after banger, after banger.