Review Summary: Finish 'em Zel.
For all of the plaudits that followed Imperial
-- deserved as they were-- it was easy to forgive and forget that, only 2 years ago, Denzel Curry’s fame was almost entirely thanks to a meme. Not that “Ultimate” itself was hard to forget, what with its relentless and aggravated flow of boasts and nerdish allusions; rather that its real impact and applications were silly for the sake of it. Of course, Curry could flow unlike anyone else, and he could articulate and enunciate with such clarity that each word of every bar was felt rather than heard, but he couldn’t escape just how ambiguously satirical his big, breakout hit sounded. Nor could he make much of an argument that his style wasn’t entirely reliant on a single dimension of insults and pop culture references, fantastic as they were. That singular style was expounded upon and intensified with Imperial
, to an extent that was as immediate as it was also agitated and difficult to throttle. Moreover, it was a showcase for Curry to rap more forcefully, with more and more addictive one-liners than his predecessors, whilst implying that his character was only capable of this type of angry, 'banging' music. If his music didn't seem all too bothered to encompass how he actually felt, than the impetus for Ta13oo
appears to be Curry's need to speak about his internal struggles of mind and character. That is, were it not for the album essentially being another incredibly forceful, brutish, and braggadocious display of modern rap on his part.
To be fair, Ta13oo
appears in part to be an attempt at maturity. Unguarding itself with adult situations in the album’s first act, Curry deals extensively with his sexual shame as he experienced through child molestation. Ignoring the distracting features courtesy of GoldLink and Nyyjerya, and Denzel’s motif of innocence destroyed is glaringly ugly, comparing a childhood ended with Pennywise’s ominous balloons. It’s also less welcoming when you take into account that every other line references suicide, which, realistically, doesn’t lend itself well to hardened bangers. But then the act completes itself with “Sumo,” ostensibly a track meant for Ski Mask the Slump God’s pastiche, ersatz Busta Rhymes yammering, so that thematic intensity is relieved somewhat as the literal intensity is ramped up frantically. Consequently, the album’s second and third acts are fairly interchangeable, and are more or less Curry in his wheelhouse of aggro, swaggering non-sequiturs, divorced of any seriousness that might promise something broader in scope (save the melodramatic and maudlin "Clout Cobain"). Of course, because this is Denzel Curry, there’s not much to complain about, because the topics he distracts himself with-- politics on “Sirens,” modern rappers on “Percs”--are rapped about with such precise rigor and vigor that its pointless to bother complaining.
Even as he begins to disregard his desperate pleas that thrusted Ta13oo
’s need to exist, he’s still churning out hit after hit. Realistically, Ta13oo
is extremely satisfying from a consumption standpoint. It’s everything I’d want from a rap album this year. And really, that’s great-- brilliant, even-- but I think we should be concerned if Denzel’s need to exorcise his own demons appears at least somewhat eclipsed by his need to keep making excellent albums.