How personal do you wanna get? Denzel Curry, the 21-year-old rapper from Carol City, Florida, isnt one to sidestep the hard questions. Having recently emerged as one of the undergrounds most vibrant young talents–and one of its best candidates for breakthrough success in the mainstream–it would be understandable if Curry had absorbed some media training classes, or if he had handlers peering over his shoulder, making sure he stays on message. Instead, when asked to talk about the events in his past that shaped his psychological development, the 2016 XXL Freshman circles back to a familiar topic: death.
There was the moment when, at 16, Curry was witness to a shooting inside a McDonalds (“Something was telling me, ‘Denzel, get your food and get the fuck outta there) and ran into the shooter the following day at school–the same high school Trayvon Martin attended. Or there was the incident in 2014, when his older brother, Treon Johnson, died after being Tasered, pepper sprayed, and taken into custody by police in Miami- Dade County. His grandmother died the same week. “I think about death a lot, Denzel says. “The thought of it doesnt scare me, but when it actually gets down to it, I always think about whats gonna happen: Will I fold? Will I cry? Will I scream? Will I be silent–will I just accept it?
Unlike other artists who are fixated on the morbid, Currys music isnt sprawling or indulgent, trite or aphoristic. Instead, his acute sense for the less savory parts of his life has manifested in hip-hop thats laser-focused, that sounds steeped in the headier approaches of the genres greatest technicians yet remains distinctly Southern. Originally a member of the SpaceGhostPurrp-founded collective Raider Klan, Curry quickly distinguished himself as one of the networks sharpest pens. The collective writ large was noted for reviving flows and production motifs that had been popular elsewhere in the South–particularly in Memphis–during the ’90s, but Denzel also cited influences like Nas and MF DOOM; he can recount in detail the time he first heard Lupe Fiascos “Kick Push on the radio and asked his mom for Food & Liquor.