Album Look Back #6: Denzel Curry’s ‘ZUU’

Denzel Curry might be the most talked about artist on thursday email. There’s been a Bite-Sized Album Review, a First Listen, several singular references to him and his music. And I honestly can’t help it. Can you blame me? The man bars out on every project; each album is its own thing (not needing to rely on the one’s before it); he’s able to morph into multiple personas a la Kendrick; he’s from the South; he’s super funny (watch an interview, you’ll see it!). What’s not to love about Denzel????? I hate that I found out about him so late – I didn’t really start getting into him until the past couple of years – but I’m happy to report that I am a Denzel fan. I love love LOVED TABOO (2018) (you can read about my love for it here), and I was super excited to hear more of Denzel’s music when ZUU (2019) finally dropped.

The album opens immediately with a peek into what the subject matter is gonna be. The “305, we in the house!” at the beginning of “ZUU” makes it clear that this is gonna be a project dedicated to Miami-Dade County, Florida, where Denzel was born and raised (and lived until he moved to LA in 2017). “ZUU” is a hard-hitting, bar-full, track that gives us a quick sonic-montage of what it was like for Denzel to grow up in Dade, complete with references to Trick Daddy. It’s a quick song, but shows us that we’re getting a different sound from Denzel, compared to TABOO, which started on the almost complete opposite side of the sonic spectrum.

The album continues with my PERSONAL FAVORITE from this project, “Ricky.” A song dedicated to the wisdom of his dad (and mom), “Ricky” makes clear the influence that Denzel’s parent’s had on his life. The song is filled with words of wisdom offered to Denzel from his parents. They warn about trusting others too easily; they offer that the most important thing Denzel can do is look out for himself and the people he loves. And they also make it clear to Denzel that the only way to make it through this game (life and the music industry) is to stay grounded and not lose sight of what the end goal is. It’s valuable advice, especially for a young man growing up with the constant push and pull of other people and outside influences. I also love love LOVE how supportive his parents – particularly his dad – have been of his music career. It’s clear that from the beginning, his parents saw something special in their child and allowed him to pursue something that wasn’t a doctor or a lawyer. I’m sure this didn’t come without it’s ups and downs, but I’m so used to the “my parents wanted me to be a doctor, but I wanted to rap, so I rapped in my room in secret” story. I love a supportive family, and the way Denzel shines is indicative of growing up surrounded in that.

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RICKY’S SON 📸: @zackerymichael

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WE LOVE A SUPPORTIVE PARENT! LOOK AT THEM!!!!!! BLACK PARENTS ROCK!!!!!

“WISH,” the next song on the project, is my next favorite track. I loveeeee the production on this song (and all the songs on this project, but this song in particular). The sample of “Genie” by B. B. & Q. Band is p e r f e c t i o n ! ! ! We really have to give some praise to Charlie Heat, Mickey De Grand IV, and FnZ for this fireeee production. They really DID THAT! Also Denzel is serving us slight vocals on the hook to the song, which I love. The main thing I want to talk about with this song is that it led to the creation of my favorite video on the internet: Denzel Curry’s Vevo Ctrl Live Session for “WISH.” I cannot explain how much I love that video LOL Denzel is really just grooving throughout the whole thing, and I’m here for it completely. His personality really shines through, and he never takes himself too seriously, but recognizes how talented he is. And I think that’s the balance we should all strive for: recognize you’re the shit, but don’t be afraid to laugh and be silly!

The next two songs – “BIRDZ” and “AUTOMATIC” – are also great. I love the Rick Ross feature on “BIRDZ.” I don’t actively seek out Rick Ross songs (he has a song called “In Vein” with The Weeknd, and I literally only listen to Abel’s part LOL I turn it off when Rick’s verse starts), but I’m usually here for a Rick feature; he really hasn’t let me down yet – “All I Do Is Win,” “I’m So Hood,” “I’M ON ONE????.” The production continues to be absolutely amazing. I love the “P Diddy makin’ bands, see 50s in my hands / I remember walking ’round the hood in some holy Vans” lines on “AUTOMATIC.” It’s not my favorite song and is a littttttle forgettable for me, but it’s still so good.

I think we all know amazing “SPEEDBOAT” is. The intro. The chorus. The piano loop in the production. It has such a different feeling than the previous 2 songs, which I love. I’ve always been a big fan of how fluid Denzel is in his musical movements; you can put him on ANYTHING and he’ll fit in perfectly. He’s such a chameleon!! It really took me a minute to realize it was him on the intro and on the hook! He basically morphs his way through the track. Also my favorite lines on the project, “Not givin’ the opportunity to let the devil ruin me, no / Even though the jewelry froze, ice cubes get Deeboed,” are on this song. The way he delivers those lines!!!

The next six songs aren’t my favorite, BUT they’re alllllll fire in their own way. I love the production on “BUSHY B INTERLUDE;” we love a strip club anthem! “YOO,” is absolutely hilarious and is one of the few “skits” on a project that doesn’t get on my nerves, when I’ve heard it for the nth time. “CAROLMART” is so so so good! I’m sure it would mean more to someone from Carol City than it does to me, BUT it’s such a southern trap song, so I’m here for it! Trap music is my weakness, and Denzel really gives us TRAP VIBESSSS on “CAROLMART.”

“SHAKE 88” is another club anthem. And again, Denzel shows us how much he can lean into different sounds. If this was the first thing I’d heard from Denzel, you couldn’t tell me that he didn’t make music like this all the time lol. He just sounds right at home. And that’s probably because this is partly what home sounds like for him. And that’s a bar lol. “BLACKLAND 66.6” isn’t my favorite (mostly because we get back into skit territory, and I can only handle one skit per album…not even lol I’m saying that the skit limit was reached), but it is a good set up for the next song. We end the project with “P.A.T.,” which is clearly a throwback to Denzel’s Raider Klan days (which I only know because I did my research after hearing “Black Metal Terrorist” from TABOO. I told you I’m new at this Denzel fan thing!). The fast bars from Denzel, the distorted bass, the punk/rock vibes. It’s all there. And I think this might be my favorite Denzel. The song itself isn’t necessarily my favorite, but Denzel just sounds like these are the types of tracks he should be on, but he can do anything. And I think taking it back to the beginning of his career with a tribute like this was the perfect ending to this project.

Even though the project is only 30ish minutes long, ZUU is so full. Denzel gives us the full scope of the city and sounds that made him. We learn about his family, both musical and biological. We hear Denzel pay homage to folks like Trick Daddy, Trina, and Plies, through samples and interpolations, while more Florida/Miami-born artists like Kiddo Marv, Rick Ross, Ice Billion Berg, Sam Sneak, and PlayThatBoiZay, back him on the features. We got some AMAZING videos out of this project. And we get to experience what it sounds like when an artist doesn’t forget where they came from. It all comes together perfectly. I wasn’t sure what to expect from ZUU, and after hearing TABOO for the first time, I was nervous that ZUU wouldn’t hold up; but I can now confidently say that that was just because I was still getting to know him and his music. After hearing ZUU for the first time, I could confidently say that I can always bet that Denzel Curry is gonna produce an amazing project every time. And I still 100% stand by that.

Featured Image Credit: https://genius.com/album_cover_arts/350228, edited by me 🙂


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