If Denzel Curry was any other artist, his sound would have been set in stone after the monumental success of his breakout single, “Ultimate.” This single from his first studio album, 32 Zel, is by all accounts a fervent banger. Prioritizing flow above all else, Curry’s raspy, almost pleading voice breathlessly cuts across three minutes of pure intensity. It’s the natural perfection to the South Florida sound, and its popularity perhaps single-handedly put Curry on the map along with the South Florida scene. However, Curry is not just any artist. While he is certainly capable of flexing these muscles on singles like “Sumo” and in his love letter to Miami, ZUU, the critical and commercial success of 2018’s airy, deeply personal TA13OO showed that Curry refuses to be pigeonholed.
If TA13OO was a departure from the sound that made Curry popular, his latest album, Melt My Eyez See Your Future represents an outright rejection. While Curry may be permanently incapable of shaking the influence of the infectious South Florida sound from his work, there is nothing close to “Ultimate” on this record. Curry’s trademark aggressive cadence takes a backseat here, favoring a more introspective, soulful voice. Refreshingly unique, Melt My Eyez sees Curry step fully into a sound you can tell he’s been itching to explore since his first release. Realizing his vision with the help of legendary auteur producers such as Robert Glasper, JPEGMAFIA and Kenny Beats, Curry appears to be at the top of his game with this release.
What has undeniably always been Curry’s greatest strength is the immaculate flow he brings to nearly every project he lends his voice to. It makes you feel on top of the world, be it walking down the street with headphones on or raging at a concert. However, this flow usually comes at a cost. While Curry’s masterful wordplay and intricate rhymes are the marks of true brilliance, the content of his songs often leaves much to be desired. While legendary verses like “Ultimate” sound blazing when rushing past you at a million miles an hour, it doesn’t take a genius to dissect lines like “Killed in the corridor, I’m the overlord / Rhymes like a sorcerer, I’m an animorph.” However, what Melt My Eyez contains in abundance is true poetry without the sacrifice of flow.
With the intensity tuned down, Melt My Eyez gives Curry room to introspect. On many of the tracks on this record, Curry effortlessly blends his personal motivations and fears with biting political ruminations on the failings of capitalism. Songs like “Walkin,” in a swagger-infused package — which contains one of the best beat switches in recent memory — effortlessly blend anecdote, social commentary and clever wordplay with lines “Treadin’ softly on a path down the rockiest road / Life isn’t ice cream without Monopoly dough.”
Thematically, this project feels muddled. Throughout Melt My Eyez, Curry makes multiple allusions to Japanese films with tracks like “Sanjuro” and “Zatoichi,” references to legendary Japanese film characters. Plus, the music videos released for the singles off this album, along with their cover artwork, are reminiscent of classic Japanese cinema. However, where in TA13OO Curry used his clown persona to tackle depression and fame, it’s hard to see exactly how this thematic choice contributes to the overall messages of Melt My Eyez.
Melt My Eyez truly excels due to the unmuddied production and the focused rapping done with clarity. It is an album about progression, about lifting yourself out of the troubles of your past. It’s clear that Curry’s got a lot to look forward to. At 27, he’s made friends with some of the most exhilarating artists in his field, released wildly commercially successful critical hits and proved his range on his latest release. While Curry’s flame may have been recently lit, Melt My Eyez is a hefty log that will undoubtedly keep his fire crackling for a lengthy stretch.
Music Beat Editor Kai Bartol can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.