After receiving critical acclaim upon its self-release in early 2016, 21-year-old Denzel Curry’s album IMPERIAL will see a wide release across all digital retail and streaming platforms. The rapper, from Carol City, Florida, has recently emerged as one of the underground’s most vibrant young talents, and one of its best candidates for breakthrough success in the mainstream.
Originally a member of the SpaceGhostPurrp-founded collective Raider Klan, Curry quickly distinguished himself as one of the network’s sharpest pens. The collective writ large was noted for reviving flows and production motifs that had been popular elsewhere in the South–particularly in Memphis–during the ‘90s, but Denzel also cited influences like Nas and MF DOOM.
In an era where the divide between old and new seems to be growing wider by the week, Curry refuses to be swayed by fickle trends. Some new artists reject the genre’s pioneers, while others cling too tightly to the past; Denzel prefers to break down those barriers. His point of view is inextricable from his Southern roots, but he incorporates pieces of every region, every time period.
By the time Raider Klan was splintering, Curry had already left and distinguished himself as a separate entity, fascinating in his own right. The first project that brought him broad acclaim was 2013’s Nostalgic 64, a knotty, frequently brilliant record that delved further than ever before into the depths of Denzel’s psyche. “I had already seen the light side,” he says of his upbringing in a household where his mother was a Jehovah’s Witness and his father a Baptist. “But it was when I really started channeling my dark side that my music started to change rapidly.”
In June of 2015, Curry dropped 32 Zel / Planet Shrooms, a double-EP that saw him move away from his formalist roots and embrace chaotic, synth-led sounds. As the sounds Denzel explored on the EPs moved even further into vogue–and as fans and critics started to come around to the new material–he pulled yet another bait-and-switch. Released this March, Imperial was both his finest work to date and his best received. The brief, breathless album showcases his near-peerless technical skill along with a newfound maturity in his songwriting. “I was going through a dark time,” Curry says now of the time that birthed Imperial. So he challenged himself to find a radical level of transparency. “The whole theme of that tape is just being honest–exposing myself before anybody else does, talking about my past, talking about where I’m heading to.”
3. Sick & Tired
4. Knotty Head (ft. Rick Ross)
5. Me Now
6. Story: No Title
7. This Life
8. Zenith (ft. Joey Bada$$)
9. Good Night (ft. Twelve’len & Nell)
10. If Tomorrow’s Not Here (ft. Twelve’len)
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