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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Rate and Review: Denzel Curry looks to the sun on “Melt My Eyez See Your Future”

The Miami-born hip-hop artist released long-awaited album March 25

Graciously invited to the layered, dynamic psyche of Carol City-raised hip-hop juggernaut Denzel Curry, listeners can now tune in to his latest full-length, long-awaited project, “Melt My Eyez See Your Future.”

Released March 25, the album marks nearly four years since Curry’s 2018 “TA1300” album. Since then, the 27-year-old has had a lot to reflect on. Themes of systemic racism, Black existential fear and the highly polarized political climate of America are constant concerns for Curry to grapple with in the seemingly dystopian landscape he constructed on the album. Despite the danger, Curry keeps on walking toward the sun. 

Sonically, “Melt My Eyez” explores Curry‘s ever-changing perspective on life through his growth as an emcee; traversing the jam session improvisation of modern jazz composer Robert Glasper to the futuristic Wild West presented by music’s sci-fi protagonist JPEGMAFIA. Despite the immersion of modern musical elements, the love Curry has for hip-hop’s golden age is not lost on this project. He confidently delivers bars packed with double entendres, metaphors and alliteration a 12th grade English teacher would be proud of. 

In what sounds like the album Curry always wanted to make, the project is cradled in karate flick references, Tribe Called Quest-type beats, Star Wars bars and, drum and bass breakdowns reminiscent of Adult Swim’s Toonami program.

When pressing play on the holographic self-portrait of Curry on the album cover, it’s immediately clear the album’s emcee had to get something off his chest. 

“Melt Session #1,” mediated by the jazzy production of Robert Glasper serves as a vent session for Curry as he reels through the immaturity and trauma endured by his younger self: 

“Accountability I take responsibility/for all my actions I pack ‘em in these soliloquies.” 

Right away, Curry gets to the root of the album. The frantic ad libs “I keep walkin’” echoes through the tail end of the track, wading on the surface of the watery piano soundscape that glides the listener right into the next track. 

The subsequent track “Walkin,” the stand-out anchor of the project, expounds on the ideas of moving forward despite the crutches of his past. What feels like a train ride zooming through New York’s subway system, Curry rides a soulful Tribe Called Quest-type beat with comfort. Lyrically, he expresses that this soul-searching process of staying focused regardless of systematic racism and double crossing is difficult. But, as long as he keeps his back to the sun and keeps his head to the sky, he will be unstoppable. 

This unstoppable feeling Curry possesses is reverberated through tracks like the rickety “Worst Comes To Worst” and western-inspired “John Wayne,” where he fearfully flexes firepower. 

Lyrics like “My only friend is my stainless” and “Any day can be our last day” speaks to the Black existential fear that has resulted from systemic racism. Pitting himself as an outlaw in a lawless land, the notion of fending for himself as a Black man in America proves to be poignant. 

The second half of the album sees Curry having fun with some friends. Features from fast spitter JID, the abrasive Rico Nasty and autotune legend T-Pain in songs like “Ain’t No Way” and “Troubles,” add color to Curry’s boom-bap landscape. Bars like “Ridin’ through the six without the Drac’” on “Ain’t No Way” are cool, clever bars that touch on the aforementioned themes. 

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But, some features are stronger than others. 

T-Pain’s feature, though admittedly a pleasant surprise on “Troubles,” felt more like a glaring after-thought than a solid collaboration, as the track seems to lose focus lyrically once his trademark autotune harmonizing is heard.

The strongest feature and best song on the tracklist, “Sanjuro” featuring Florida artist 454, would put a smile on any Floridian’s face. 

“Sunshine state with a great lil’ life/for the ones that can’t every day, quick pace,” is a masterclass of wordsmithing that seamlessly gives thanks to life.

If “Sanjuro” didn’t make a good impression, “The Smell of Death” definitely will. 

Grammy award-winning bassist Thundercat, known for his work on Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” seemingly gave Curry a power-up with his instrumentation, in what sounds like if Dr. Dre dropped 1992’s “The Chronic” in 2022. Wailing G-Funk-like synthesizers backed by Thundercat’s laidback bass work makes for a good canvas for Curry to “explode ya head” on. 

Bars like “Feel my rage like Naruto in the Sage Mode” give a nod to Curry’s love for anime and Japanese culture.

Songs like “Zatoichi” and “X-Wing” expand on Curry’s love for sci-fi flicks and anime in ways he hadn’t expressed on a full-length project. It’s refreshing to hear these different inspirations Curry has only touched the surface of during interviews and collaborations in the past few years.

The introspection presented on this album is the rope that holds it together as Curry vividly invites listeners into the depths of his psyche. Though some songs didn’t make a great impression, it’s impossible not to appreciate the world Curry invited us to.

Rating: 8.6/10

Contact Dazion at dprosser@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @DazionProsser.

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