It’s been a minute since I listened to Nostalgic 64 – or anything by Denzel Curry for that matter – although the remnants of a few listening sessions from long ago still surfaced in my mind when I saw that his latest tape 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms had dropped. Curry was a member of the now relatively defunct RVIDER KLVN alongside massive underground names like Chris Travis, Xavier Wulf and Eddy Baker (be sure to catch them at BOMBSESH II) based out of Miami - a scene that is known for its leaned out atmospheric and bizarre pseudo-trap. From the looks of the title, Curry’s been exploring some other substances and he’s here to share the experience.
he tape opens up with the heavily synthesized “32 Ave Intro”, a track that rekindled my love of the often-overlooked intro track concept. He gets you ready for the experience by teleporting you to a cybernetic space layered with sizzling textures as he takes you through a day in the life of Denzel.
The dark atmosphere carries forward with a little more speed than what you’d usually hear from the Florida scene but what I love is how the artist fills the space in the song with whatever, literally anything from weird synths to bumping toms to even his own voice through a filter. “Ultimate”, one of the few tracks that dropped prior to the release of the full tape, is his peak rage – his super saiyan moment – tearing into any and everything in his path as he revels in his own glory with just enough finesse to make the arrogance seem admirable.
The tone shifts as we proceed to the 6th track. “Ice Age” features Curry just being personal for a second. Everything else aside, he’s just trying to get a nut and smoke some and he’s not too concerned with stunting. What he does speaks for himself. Another side to his persona comes through clear in the track as he’s coming at your ears with the same visceral intensity that he’s been delivering but his tone is noticeably calmer. Obviously, there's other stuff going through his mind and he does well to show that his psyche is layered - a theme that becomes more prominent later on in the tape.
So far, there hasn’t been much allusion to the psychedelic aspect of the tape and even though the first 7 songs have been entertaining it feels like something’s missing until that 8th track comes along. “Past the Wudz Intro”, the second intro on the tape (because Curry can do that) introduces the Planet Shrooms chapter on the album as he takes us through the depths of his mind as a shaman inside his own head discusses fate, the future and self-reflection as one continues forth through the journey of life.
There are definitely some sonic differences between the halves that are clear almost as soon as you start listening to the latter. Curry started rapping through filters and the beats place a greater emphasis on melodies and high’s even though they still maintained that deep bassy component to a large extent. The second half’s eponymous track features Curry – as you might expect – just spewing thought after thought from all the inexplicable turns his mind has taken in the midst of his trip while occasionally trying to pull a curtain of reality down in order to draw parallels. The track presents JK the Reaper’s second feature as he too seems to very vividly explore all these connections inside his head.
The tape closes out with “Void” as he revisits a regular day in his life, like at the very start. The song brings the story full circle as it represents the comedown and the disorientation that comes with being away from this reality for too long. The time is usually used for reflection and Denzel reflects. He reminisces about a girl – Ciara - and one of his friends that got shot, and how that affects his own life, his relationships with people and his thoughts about his future. He also lowkey drops a line about his slain brother near the end of his verse after he finds himself contemplating and challenging various preconceived societal notions. The track cuts deep as Denzel Curry presents himself in such a way that makes him seem utterly and hopelessly human. We’re made to think about ourselves, each being the sum of all our experiences, the path forward as we continue to have new ones and the continuous ramblings of our subconscious as we try (in vain) to asses what these paths may possibly lead to, and if there is any other way.
Throughout the tape a few things remained consistent – fat kicks that held up the nicest flow and the most cleverly placed and mixed adlibs I have heard in a minute. The calm, leathery hooks that can be heard on tracks like “Envy Me” perfectly contrast the relentless (yet not gratuitously aggressive) flow. At some points the dude is just yelling into the mic and it still sounds crisp as fuck. Bottom line, at age 20, Curry literally just became one of my favorite rappers. Whether he’s rapping about mowing down his enemies, some other weird ass tangent – all of which he does – it’s always fresh as fuck. While few in number, his more personal tracks were so incredibly powerful that they added entire dimensions to the work that allow it to feel more complete and make Curry’s artistry that much more magnificent. All that aside, the artistic choices made on this album beyond the rapping and the beats, such as the way the concept is presented or the cleverly embedded skits, make this album an incredibly impressive second effort and having already been at it for a few years now, the Carol City native will only continue to grow as an artist.