Review | Denzel Curry - ZUU
On ZUU, Florida rapper Denzel Curry delivers a short and unambitious collection of songs marred by the absence of his signature creativity.
On ZUU, Florida rapper Denzel Curry follows up last year’s bleak and personal TA13OO with a more concise and accessible project. At 29 minutes, his latest is a brief burst of high-energy trap. As the album’s artwork proudly announces, this is a very different album from Curry’s past works. Imperial was a wrath-fuelled indictment of American culture and government. Next, TA13OO turned to introspection as Curry meditated on his own traumas and anxieties. ZUU exists outside of his past works’ thematic fixations. The album, named after Curry’s hometown of Carol City, is an ode to what it proclaims to be “the most beautifulest place in the land.” While Curry’s affection for Carol City is undeniable, he fails to create a unique sonic language to express his admiration.
Last year on TA13OO, Curry showed his knack for genre-merging and creative production. On the album’s final track, Curry unleashed a bone-crushing metal-rap hybrid. Unfortunately, this promise of out-of-the-box experimentation doesn’t usually materialize on ZUU. The beats tend to be conventional and coupled with a fun, if always predictable, synth line. As a result, some of the album blends together into a monochromatic compilation of trap clichés.
For the most part, the album survives on the energy of Curry’s vocal performance. At times, Curry’s flow seems less influenced by the hip-hop classics and more from the genre of 2000s nu-metal. On tracks like “P.A.T.” his voice transforms into a violent roar as he launches an unstoppable stream of words from his mouth. However, when Curry’s rapping veers into more orthodox territory, the tracks become lackluster. The clearest example is “AUTOMATIC”, with its repetitive and tedious chorus, making little attempt to conceal its identity as a low-effort, filler track.
The album’s most sensational moments explode on “BIRDZ.” The track, featuring Rick Ross, is tied together with a distorted synth, raging war over a tense beat produced by Australian duo FnZ. It’s the only song on ZUU that feels like a successor to the distinct sounds Curry developed in the later tracks off TA13OO. Its abruptness and warlike soundscapes evoke more hardcore musicians, such as Death Grips.
Yet ultimately, ZUU is a disappointingly safe project, where the most radical creative decision is Curry’s choice to load the back half with unnecessary skits and transitional pieces. All of this is pretty upsetting, considering how organically Curry’s identity emerged through TA13OO’s production. This retreat into a more formulaic style isn’t totally unexpected. With Curry currently opening for Billie Eilish, this new material seems catered to a more universal fanbase. Yet in a year marked by rappers like Tyler, the Creator’s revelatory re-definition of his sound and Little Simz’s unique lyricism, there’s little value and satisfaction from inoffensive, low-ambition cash-ins like ZUU.
Best songs: BIRDZ, SPEEDBOAT
Worst song: AUTOMATIC