ABOUT A BAND: DENZEL CURRYOctober 11, 2016
“You know about the Zenith TVs?” Denzel Curry asks. He’s talking about a track on his second album Imperial featuring Joey Bada$$, whose official video we’re proud to feature as the 27th edition of our UO Music Video Series. “Catch me on the Zenith,” he purports on the song over record scratches and dreamy production of a subtle chord progression and a steady beat.
The notion of fame and identity run through the whole of Imperial. Denzel, a swift and impressive lyricist, drives home the notion that he is his own personality and artist outside of the hip-hop group that helped kick-start his career.
A member of the Florida collective lead by rapper and producer SpaceGhostPurrp, Raider Klan from 2011 until 2013, Denzel struck out on his own with the release of his debut album Nostalgic 64. The collection played into his musical upbringing skirting through his hometown of Carol City’s underground art scene — real and gritty.
Following the release of his double EP “32 Zel/Planet Shrooms” in 2015 — and it’s Caribbean-inspired standout “Ultimate” — and Imperial earlier this year, Denzel made a name for himself as a high energy and experimental artist, landing him a spot on this year’s XXL Freshman Class.
Here we catch up with Denzel on the set of the video for “Zenith,” where he tells us about the song’s inception and his upbringing in Carol City, Florida.
What was it like working with Joey Bada$$ on “Zenith”?
When I was doing that song, I was writing it in the car and then I presented it to Joey when we were on tour together. He was like “Yeah, I’ll get this done.” It took a couple weeks, but we eventually got it done. We were originally supposed to record another song but we weren’t able to meet up. I got really sick when I was in New York so we were like, “Forget it, let’s just leave it how it is. Let’s just do ‘Zenith.’” We could’ve done something better. But all in all, with or without the music, we’re still fam. We don’t have to do music ever again, that’s my dog.
Does it help to work with a friend?
Hell yeah! There’s mad chemistry involved. Because there’s mad chemistry, people would be like, “Oh damn! They’re working together?”
People underestimate the power of connection in creating.
Yeah, but not I!
How did the music scene in Carol City shape you?
I was shaped by the underground culture and the arts scene. We would go to Art Walks and do mad mural and graffiti hoping we wouldn’t get caught. I was a part of that culture. When Purpp came out with Blackland Radio 66.6, I took action — everybody took action. The city is mostly Caribbean: Jamaican, Haitian, Bahamians… so you get influenced by different kinds of stuff. Growing up, my mom didn’t buy me expensive sneakers. I only got certain things and everything else she couldn’t buy because she was working two or three jobs. I was raised differently than everybody else. Growing up there, it was definitely a cool setting.
How important was having that influential upbringing to your art in its current state?
It was real important! This is my city — I have to showcase as much of my city as possible so people can be like, “Yup, that’s what it is. That’s where I’m from.” I want people to be proud of where they’re from and to see a different direction than it was before because you didn’t see any weird artists coming out of this city at all. Most of the time, you see weird artists come out of Atlanta. People that come out of Florida are usually on some mob shit or some drug dealing shit or some Southern hood shit. In the underground scene, we were the kids that were the outcasts of that. We were still raised by it, but we were the outcasts.
At what point did you get involved with Raider Klan?
In 2011 when I first met SpaceGhostPurrp. We met over the Internet. I drew a picture for him. Then he liked one of my videos called “Black Blaze” and he was like, “You’re from Carol City? Oh shit, I didn’t even know!”
I did a tape called “King Remembered.” It was a 6-track EP. I put it up and my homie was like, “This shit’s hard! Take it down and put it back up with me and whoever you want [to be] featured.” I hollered at most of my homeboys who I was rapping with at first and they were like, “Nah, I’m doing my own thing.” I was trying to get all my homeboys who I knew were fire at rapping and the only two I got were Mike Dece and Yung Simmie and that’s all I needed. I dropped the tape again, re-did the cover and that’s when Purpp was like, “Denzel’s in Raider Klan now.”
Regardless of whom you were affiliated with, was your plan always to make music?
Without or without them, I was going to kill shit. That wasn’t going to pigeonhole me.
It’s very easy to pigeonhole someone in music. How do you combat that?
Master the art of doing something different and then kill it. And then when they see you doing something different that’s when they go, “Oh man, he can do anything.”
How important is visual art in your music?
All my videos have a certain theme. If you look at “Threatz” and “Parents” then you look at “Zone 3” and all of that is nostalgic. [You] realize that all three of those videos tie into each other because of the way they were shot and the way it looks — colorful. When you look at the stuff that I’m releasing now, all of that fits around pure honesty but I wanted to put it into a weird world.
Watch the video for “Zenith”