by BRIAN GARRARD
Photo Credit: Dazed
Denzel Curry is the last great bastion of Miami’s SoundCloud rap scene, and on UNLOCKED, he continues to demonstrate why. Following two critically acclaimed albums, 2018’s TA13OO and 2019’s ZUU, Curry is once again showing his ability to hit hard, blend into any sound he applies himself to, and still maintain his unique voice in hip hop today.
This time he collaborates with Kenny Beats, perhaps known best for his collaborations with comedian Zach Fox and fellow fantastic rapper Rico Nasty. Kenny, like Curry, manages to showcase both his ability to adapt to new sounds and his ability to remain entirely recognizable on this new project.
Trying to parse this album is genuinely difficult simply because it sounds like two people at the height of their craft throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks, only to find that all of it sticks. Madlibs-style sampling of comic book cartoons and old PSA’s? It’s in there. Pitch shifted vocals and skeletal backdrops? There and there. Hard hitting drums, ethereal synths, smooth soully bass, it’s all there all at the same time on basically every song and it just, inexplicably works.
Loud, energetic, catchy, refreshing and genuinely weird. UNLOCKED is the kind of album that doesn’t come out often. It seems to have been made out of genuine fun, and made to be genuinely fun, full of braggadocio and BARS, BARS, BARS. The aesthetic of the album is so interesting that the lyrics, great in and of themselves, feel like just a wonderful bonus to an already complete album.
There are dull or perhaps conflicted moments on the project to be sure. For example, while “DIET_” feels like a fully realized vision of this collaboration, seeing Curry going from smooth and calm to a vicious king of his domain, with Kenny Beats lending a light hand giving only the absolute necessities, the opening track in particular feels like an afterthought, unfinished and largely unrefined compared to the rest of the tracks.
At its core, as is true of any collaboration, UNLOCKED shines when both creators’ voices find equal weight, and when the finished product highlights each collaborator’s strengths and polishes their weaknesses. When Denzel’s vocals seem to be slapped on simply because it feels like they should, the illusion of kismet between the two artists wavers just a bit.
But there really is something to be said about the confidence oozing out of the words in this album, strewn with claims of Curry’s staying power and unique identity in hip-hop today. The message of the words pairs perfectly with the aesthetic of the album. Curry is unique, the author of his own style, who deserves his place and can only go up from here. The real takeaway from UNLOCKED is just how excited you should be for the future.
Curry and Kenny Beats are really telling you to watch this space, and if this project is any indicator, you absolutely should. This is only a proof of concept for each artist’s seemingly unstoppable creative force, and I strongly suspect the best is yet to come.