Review Summary: I kick that funky shit until my casket close
Denzel Curry is the fucking best, and it's not because he spits good lines with skill. In fact it's more accurate to say he spits bad lines with complete, infectious abandon – it's hard to imagine any other rapper staying in the conversation after a bar like "that's me at my Lois, no Peter Griffin", but here's Curry setting the game on fire with an 18-minute tape promoted like 80% by memes. What's his fucking secret?
I'd like to say he does it through sheer force of will, but it's more accurate to highlight his truly terrific delivery. Second only to ScHoolboy Q in terms of pure vocal elasticity, Curry pivots like an acrobat around the beat instead of sitting on it, which is served beautifully by the 90s-inspired, roomy tracks Kenny Beats supplies him with here. Listen to the way he stretches up to a punky nasal snarl on his "Bulls on Parade" and "I Against I" covers, down to a new wave-ish mumble on "CLOUT COBAIN", flips between a growl and ODB sing-wail on "DIET_" for the hell of it. UNLOCKED
literalises Curry's penchant for metamorphosis, pitch-shifting his vocals up and down like it's 2011 and he's just joined Odd Future, and the rapper has endless intoxicating flows to keep pace with the effects. Even when he's not powering the tape with straight rocket fuel, Kenny Beats smoothly remixes lines from other songs into beat tracks "Track 01" and "Track07", or drops in single-word samples to finish sentences, painting a lo-fi plunderphonics soundscape equal parts Madvillainy
and The Avalanches. I could go on with the comparisons, but they don't really matter: UNLOCKED
's best features are its brevity and simplicity. Songs drop in, do what they need to and cycle to an end without melodrama – something like "Pyro (leak 2019)" is just one straight heater of a verse that ends when its point is made and not a second after. With that in mind, this is a tape best enjoyed as a light digest, endlessly replayable but admittedly shallow. Until Denzel finds the right balance between his lofty conceptual ambitions and his seemingly endless well of punky bangers, a surface level this fun is the best we can hope for.