Florida rapper Denzel Curry thrives in the world of Soundcloud rap, but unlike some of his peers who direct their energy towards shock factor and distortion, Curry threads dense rhymes through his raucous vocals and catchy refrains. Built on three acts simply entitled Light, Gray, and Dark, Denzel Curry’s latest sees him expanding the world of 2016’s Imperial with more brightly infused R&B sounds at the front of the album, before delving into the varying degrees of darkness that cloud his outlook.
Opening with a yearning, soulful smolder, the album starts off in a new zone for Curry, almost bordering the likes of Saba or Kendrick. Slow, longing vocals evoke a torn, emotional world before Curry starts his verse. His lyrics mimic the sound world painting a picture of emotional scarring to match the overarching darkness. Black Balloons follows with Curry perhaps more accurately striking the Light title as the black balloons above his head that represent his depression pop and set him free.
As advertised, Curry’s energy begins to shift. Although thematically positive, Sumo’s intensity leads into the aggressive Gray portion of the work. Capped off by single Clout Cobain, which speaks about suicidal thoughts, here Curry’s lyrics begin to dabble in morbid and crazed themes (in Switch it Up he references lynchings: “If life is hangin’ by a thread/Then a ni**a just might be dead”). Admittedly, the difference between Gray and Dark can be hard to hear in spots, but the bright melody of Cobain would certainly be out of place amongst the full-throttle raw energy of the last handful of tracks.
Despite, Curry himself showing willingness to abandon the grimier sides of his vocals on the hooks, the most exciting aspect of this album is his use of features. Nyyjerya helps elevate the bright tone of Cash Maniac, before more goth-friendly support from Billie Eilish on Sirens.
The bottom line is Denzel Curry can rap his ass off and write a catchy hook. Taboo sees these talents fleshed out in a multitude of different ways yielding standout material and effortless flow.