Melt My Eyez See Your Future – Denzel Curry
Over the past decade, Denzel Curry has risen from the streets of Carol City to cement himself as one of the best lyricists in the world, if not one of the best to ever do it. Fast bars, cerebral subject matter, and unique production whilst paying homage to his home state is something that Denzel Curry is very accustomed to. His latest record, released on March 25 of this year, sticks to that mold but brings something new to the table. On this album, we see Curry, with the assistance of 20 some-odd producers (varying from Kenny Beats, to Naz, to JPEGMafia, to Thundercat) incorporate a much wider range of instrumentation and samples that add a real character to this album. If there was any doubt that Denzel is one of the most versatile, talented rappers in the game, he has put those critics to rest with this album. Spanning 14 tracks and just a hair over 45 minutes, we see elements of 90’s rap, jazz, soul, and a myriad of other genres in the toolbelt of Curry and company. The album kicks off with a bang with “Melt Session #1”, an introspective, psychedelic track with Curry’s patented quick flows backed by a pulsating beat and a piano riff played by Robert Glasper. This track transitions into “Walkin,” which has shown itself to be the hit track off Curry’s newest album.
This idea of continuing to go on in life, to “keep walking,” regardless of what one goes through, plays a big role in many tracks on this album. In the past, Denzel Curry has often rapped through the perspective of an alter ego. On this album, however, it appears that he is truly speaking for himself. Not to say that Curry’s past releases have seemed impersonal or untruthful, but there is something about the lines on this record, particularly the first two tracks, that have a more intimate feel. Take the first verse for example, Curry says, ”Me against the world, it's me, myself and I, like De La/ Got in touch with my soul,” citing rap legends De La Soul, as well as giving the listener a little insight to Curry’s approach to writing these tracks. Not to mention the hooks are catchy as hell, an art form that Curry is very near perfecting. Next, we have “Worst Comes To Worst,” followed by “John Wayne,” which features Buzzy Lee. Here, Curry delivers tracks that feel straight off of Imperial, as they feature hypnotic and soulful samples with some lines featuring elements of theology, racial injustice, and violence. Curry has certainly been my favorite rapper for the past 5 years at least, but my mind is still blown by how effortless and natural his lyrical ability seems to be. Every line is jam-packed with thought-provoking imagery, and yet it’s still easy to just sit back and groove with the music. Next track, “The Last,” is one that discusses living life like every day is your last, as well as coming to peace with the not-so-peaceful society we currently live in. “Mental” takes #6 in the track list, and it may be my personal favorite. Only a hair over 2 minutes long, the track features some light piano riffs with Madlib-esque production, and the track ends with some powerful poetry narrated by Saul Williams. The next two tracks, “Troubles” and “Ain’t No Way” both feature icons of the industry. T-Pain shines on “Troubles,” whereas 6LACK, Rico Nasty, JID, Jasiah, and Kitty Ca$h, and while these songs are star-studded, they fit more of the pop rap mold, and I was not overly impressed. Both tracks still contain amazing lines, however, as JID and Denzel are two of the best lyricists in the genre.
The back half of the album kicks off with “X-Wing,” a fast-paced, aggressive, 3-minute track that has that rivals the energy of “Speedboat” off Denzel’s last full length, ZUU. The next track is “Angelz,” which features excellent percussion from jazz drummer Karriem Riggins, as well as some ethereal, layered choral vocals that fit nicely with the somber keys and Denzel’s bars discussing elements of betrayal and his journey to success. Track 11 is an 80-second song titled “The Smell of Death,” that helps bring the first 10 tracks into the last three. Denzel has recorded a brief B-side track on other albums, like “BUSHY B INTERLUDE” from ZUU¸ that are likely intended to merge the vibes of the first half of the record with the second half, but these tracks often end up standing out to me. “The Smell of Death” transitions into “Sanjuro,” which features an excellent verse from 454. Track 13 is another personal favorite of mine titled “Zatoichi,” maintaining the common themes of eastern martial arts and culture by referencing the Zatoichi, the main character in one of Japan’s longest-running television and film series. The song also contains a chorus feature from UK artist Slowthai, who Denzel has worked with before. This track has amazing energy and a quick, hyperpop-esque beat to match. The closing song is titled “The Ills,” that contains some slower, more methodical bars discussing elements of theology, history, personal struggles, and guilt. This song reminds me of “If Tomorrow’s Not Here,” from Denzel’s 2016 album Imperial which I referenced earlier, a song that Denzel cited in an interview a few years ago as his “best song,” and “The Ills” should be held right up there with it. Not only is it extremely personal and powerful, but it encapsulates the feel of the entire album beautifully. In past records, Denzel has closed his records on high energy, abrasive tracks like “P.A.T” and “BLACK METAL TERRORIST,” which are both excellent songs that likewise matched the overall album aesthetic, but I feel that “The Ills” is Denzel’s best ender to date.
Regardless of the critical acclaim that Denzel Curry has received for previous albums, it is clear that Melt My Eyez See Your Future has a little something that his previous records don’t. I see much more longevity in this project, considering Denzel’s transition into a more versatile production style while still maintaining his core sound. This is easily one of the defining rap albums of this year, and Curry continues to prove to critics and fans alike that he can thrive in multiple settings, and that he is capable of delivering his message clearly and consistently over a wide range of beats and instrumental styles. While TA1300 and ZUU were both great records, this latest project just has a little more return value than Denzel’s previous projects. It goes without saying that I can’t wait to see what Curry has in store for the future.