Denzel Curry's newest album is a wild voyage through Carol City, texturing his hometown with his eclectic charisma.
The 24-year-old Miami rapper's latest release, ZUU, offers the crushing beats and gnashing delivery he's known for, brandishing brags as both shields and swords over the album's darkly motorized soundscape. But ZUU is equal parts rowdy hometown loyalty and clear-eyed contemplation. The album's tracklist turns Carol City into a stage for Curry to speak on violence, success, celebration, and survival.
This past month, Curry's lead singles "RICKY" and "SPEEDBOAT" set the tone for ZUU with their jigsaw sound and their defiant hooks, but the way ZUU fills out that tone is what gives the album its weight. The production, headed by Australian duo FNZ and featuring touches from Charlie Heat and Tay Keith, mixes siren-like trills with moody electronica over a constant trap beat, which expands and contracts to allow ZUU to switch from introspection to raucous headbanging and back. "WISH," "CAROLMART," and "P.A.T." convey the hustle and struggle that delivered Curry to the good life: He won't let the listener forget what he came out of—"I got a gold plaque, shit, I came from dodging hollowpoints" he raps on "AUTOMATIC"—but it's not really a story of escape.
Instead, it feels like Curry is re-engineering the world that shaped him in a corrosive, tightly-wound half-hour, complete with his experimental, punk-trap-weirdo aesthetic. The line "Fuck a Pop Tart, we carry toasters for real" from the Rick Ross-assisted "BIRDZ" works double-duty as a warning shot and just bizarre imagery. All throughout, Curry's peculiar ferocity shines through.
ZUU isn't a one-to-one representation of Carol City; rather, the city provides the fabric of the album. Denzel Curry has put together a cohesive album with a palpable sense of location, assured in its braggadocio in the way any good hip-hop project should be. Listening to him conjure up his home in his verses is arresting and another promising chapter in the rapper's prolific discography.