Denzel Curry proves he's still the ultimate on 13

Denzel Curry is a goofball.

On a hot day in June, I saw Denzel Curry perform in a park in Brooklyn. The man never stopped coasting around the stage, making faces and taking names the whole time. While humor is an essential element of his live performance, his recorded music tells a different story - especially on his new EP 13.

With titles like “Bloodshed”, “Hate Government”, and “Heartless”, the listener can guess that Denzel’s gonna bring the heat. He does just that: like many of his South Florida counterparts, he packs a punch with the noisy, industrial sound of the area; however, unlike some of his peers his lyrics match that intensity, delivering blow after blow throughout the EP.

“Bloodshed” immediately sets the tone for the rest of the EP: laced with clever wordplay soaked in eerie synth and radio static, the track is essentially a warning to Curry’s competitors - delivering one of the most memorable hooks of the year along the way. The man does not play around, and in one of his verses he delivers this slap in the face: “Denzel got a murdering policy / With no remorse, not accepting apologies / No jewelries, speaking tomfoolery / Fuck the rap game imma speak at my eulogy”. While this could seem like run-of-the-mill old-head rap bragging in different lighting, Denzel’s music as whole proves this is an illegitimate argument.  The amount of musical and lyrical twists and turns on this thirteen-minute long EP alone are enough to prove that he’s at the top of the rap game he claims to hate.

Denzel also seems to love adapting personas. On this EP, he is a destroyer who feels alienated by the world around him, which is shown in “Bloodshed” when he says “In this world I feel like a terrarium / Out of my cranium, back in my stadium, starship / Giving you all of my hardship / Don't give a fuck about a car, whip, slip”. Denzel feels trapped, and he doesn’t care about modern hip-hop’s idea of success.

On “Hate Government”, Curry again once again shows his ruthlessness, dishing out lines like “You want a war bring the gear please / Murdering everyone yearly, sincerely (ultimate)”. Although threats are all over this EP, Curry doesn’t neglect to mention, well, the government and other larger social issues - especially on this track. He’s concerned for the future generation and understands the dangers of growing up like he did, a black male in America.

Denzel continues on his warpath with “Equalizer”: “Contemplation killing competition / Confrontation, reevaluation / You don't want to see the revelation”. More fiery and maniacal lines from him showcase his dexterity on the mic.

The scruffiness of “Hate Government” will certainly draw comparisons to the spirit of punk music. Recently, people have been saying that underground rap and trap is the new punk music, but it is a fairly basic assessment of that nuanced scene as a whole. Sure, there are definitely rappers out there like Denzel channeling revolution and justice through their music, but there are just as many out there like Lil Pump and Ski Mask who are just kids messing around and making off-the-wall rap music with no apparent world-changing goal in mind (looking at you too, Ugly God). That’s not to say that their music should be discredited, rather, their music is more party and less social commentary. Sure, XXXTentacion may dress and make music that’s counterculture, but he’s definitely not punk in the ideological sense.

“Heartless” feels like it’s going to be another roast session from Curry from the outset. By the very end of the song though, Denzel wraps up all of this boasting with the question, “I am so heartless, why am I so heartless?” Even on a more unstructured EP like this one, Curry manages to bring his tracks back to a pressing question, whether it be about empathy or if his next-of-kin will be alright.

Despite many trap artists give forward-thinking approaches to music, they owe at least something to their predecessors, and many of them actively respect the artists that came before them. Curry seems to be one of these artists because the EP’s closer “Zeltron 6 Billion” has some heavy New York hip-hop vibes all over it. Immediately reminiscent of MF DOOM, the track is another clear cut warning to his contemporaries.

Throughout 13, Denzel levels threats and threatens destruction. Despite it just being essentially a teaser EP, it showcases his ability to pair the musical qualities of modern trap with down to earth observations about himself and his fellow man.