By Christopher Brocker
Denzel Curry has become one of the most notable rappers of the younger generation. The 25-year-old rapper hailing from Carol City, Florida, has released projects consistently over the last decade. His project ZUU, which came out May of last year, was a tribute to his hometown and the sound that he was raised on.
On Curry’s newest project Unlocked, he teams up with the emerging 28-year-old producer Kenny Beats. Beats has notably collaborated with rising hip hop star Rico Nasty on their project Anger Management. Beats is also known for creating one of the most entertaining hip hop series on YouTube called “The Cave”, where he invites artists to his studio to collaborate on a track. Anticipation for collaboration between Curry and Beats hit its peak after Curry gave a freestyle on the finale of “The Cave”’s first season.
The run time on Unlocked is only 18 minutes however, its release is accompanied by a short film. The film is mostly animated, although Curry and Beats are featured briefly in a live-action sequence. The plot follows Curry and Beats as they search through the internet for the leaked files from Unlocked. The film adopts stylings of the cartoon “Scooby-Doo”, the clay animation of Adult Swim as well as animation from the manga series “Uzumaki”.
The album opens with a sampled voice reminiscent of an MF Doom or Wu-Tang Clan album. Shortly afterward the listener is welcomed with heavy boom bat production from Beats on the track “Take_it_Back_v2”. Curry raps aggressively as usual on the track and drops nerdy references which are on-brand for him. This is one of the longer songs off the record, however, the repetition of some bars accompanied by the sampling gives the impression that they’re filling up space on the track.
“Lay_Up.m4a”, begins with a brief preview of the chorus before a sample serves as a transition into Curry’s first verse. The track has an eerie and echoing 808 drum that instantly grabbed my attention. The beat later progresses with some synth notes that are incorporated. Curry’s delivery on the bridge is one of my favorite moments on the entire project. Curry also drops references to Thanos, Lando Calrissian and Franklin from “Grand Theft Auto”. Selfishly, I wish this song could have been extended.
“DIET_”, begins with Curry rapping in a calmer tone than usual, however, it progressively grows more passionate as the song progresses. The production escalates with Curry as he abruptly burst out into a DMX impression. The beat is stripped down to the bone as Curry gives a noteworthy performance on this track.
“So.Incredible.pkg,” is another enjoyable track off the record which highlights Curry’s ability to flow over old school production. The verses on the track are broken up by a sample that replicates ODB’s singing. The following track “Track07”, serves as an interlude that feels gratuitous considering the brevity of the project.
“’Cosmic’.m4a”, is one of the most fleshed-out tracks on the project. Curry’s switching of his cadence as he flows on this track is impressive. The delivery of the chorus on this track is reminiscent of Kanye West on “Monster”. Beats lets the beat breathe a bit before its interrupted by a psychedelic sequence of synths and washed out sampling that concludes the project.
Beats shows his presence on many of the tracks through sampled adlibs that contribute to the delivery of Curry’s bars. The abstract sampling on this project is accompanied by boom bat production from Beats. This is then partnered with Curry’s abrasive delivery and cartoonish punch lines which create a chaotic environment throughout the record. The chaos can lead to a feeling of information overload for the listener. This is felt especially when watching the short film which features the music from Unlocked and resembles a video game in plot structure.
This project serves as an appetizer for what is to come from Curry and Beat’s future collaborations. The record is very experimental as the track titles which resemble names of internet files, speak to the roughness of the project. Curry’s tendency to freestyle his verses on albums attributes to the unpredictability of his delivery and cadences. Unlocked is easily one of my favorite projects so far this year. To speak on behalf of the rest of the hip-hop community, the following collaboration from these two emerging stars will be highly anticipated.