There’s something about Denzel Curry that most people don’t understand. Far beyond his years, Denzel Rae Don Curry, a 23-year old rapper Carol City, Florida, is a quick-witted young man with the wisdom of an old prophet. Behind the lyrics is a man who places a firm grip on his understanding of the world based on his own experience, which he would tell you his success owes a lot to. As someone who takes great insights from his relatively short life so far and matches that with a determination to address the world the way he sees it, Denzel Curry is one of the most real cerebral artists in hip-hop today.
In preparation for the release of his third studio album, Ta13oo, we sat down with the man himself to discuss everything from the influence of his brother on his music, perspective, and fashion, to his aspirations to make the world a better place. One thing that was near impossible to expect as we sat with Denzel on the terrace of Boiler room UK’s headquarters in London, was just how much of a diamond in the rough this man truly is.
After a day of appearances, sound checks, and interviews, Curry was didn’t hold back in stating how hopeful he was that his last interview of the day would be different from the others. As we sat with Denzel on the terrace of Boiler room UK’s headquarters in London, you can judge whether it was or not.
Who is Denzel Curry? I guess you haven’t been asked that question yet….
Who is Denzel Curry?! Who am I?? I’m everything that revolves around you… That’s who I am! I’m Denzel. I’m God, I’m the devil. I’m your daddy, I’m the elements around you. I’m also Zeltron 6 billion on the low. That’s my name.
How has 2018 been for you so far?
It started off a little bit slow but I knew what I was going to do this year and how I was going to do it. I was going through a little stage in 2017 where I was trying to figure out who I wanted to be. I just knew by 23 I was going to be the person that I was going to be at 22… You feel me?
And are you?
Well, yes. Because I knew how I was going to become. I feel like I went from Curry the Killer to Curry the commander, commanding everything in my life right now, manifesting into the person I’ve always wanted to be. Everything is kicking it up a notch, and the album is about to come out. As soon as the album comes out… I’m going to hit y’all with the next wave, and then the next way. If this one doesn’t do it, the next one will do it. Everything was according to the plan.
How did you become inspired by Andre 3000?
I just asked him a question and he said, ‘don’t get bored bruh’. And that’s how Ultimate by Denzel Curry happened. For a long time, I could see these guys popping on the internet and became afraid of being viewed as copping someone else’s style. After I met Andre, I cried and then the blacked-out crazy Denzel was formulated.
What is your earliest memory of music?
Hearing my brother and cousin rap for the first time. My cousin was the first person I knew who had suicide doors. He used to sling but he was also a rapper and I would look up to him. My brother would have mixtapes of him rapping over beats with his homeboys.
What was your first mixtape like for you?
My first mixtape was 2010 but nobody had ever heard it, back when I was going by this bitch ass rap name.
What is your first rap name?
Owwwww, I can’t tell you that!! Just know it wasn’t worth noting because you’ll be like, ‘yo haha, that was your first rap name?’
Okay, what was the name of your first project?
Batcave fam. Our den where we recorded music was like a cave, so we called it the bat cave. The only ones however that to music to the next level was me and my brother Mook when we joined raider klan. Once we joint, I gave that to him so I can embark on other shit. The first tape was like, ‘urgggghhh’.
If you could categorise your music, what genre would it fall under?
I don’t know. People try to but that’s because they think I only have one style. But I’m a chameleon.
What are the main reasons for giving up smoking and drinking and would you advise rappers to do the same?
To think clearer and get shit done. It was a distraction that I needed to get out of the way. And I’m not at my creative best when I’m high or drunk. I’m more cerebral anyways, a sensitive artist.
But how would you know the benefits of that before you stopped, looking from the outside in?
When you have more energy every day, not looking depleted. Look at Gucci Mane, Kendrick Lamar!
Do you prefer to write lyrics or freestyle?
Both. I like to have fun with it. With writing, too much and it feels like homework, whereas too much freestyle and you won’t understand as I change the lyrics every now and then. The more I do it, the more fun it becomes. If I have a lyrical challenge, then I’m going to write. Until then, I don’t have anything specific to right. The only person that got me to back into writing for real, was J.I.D (of J.Cole’s Dreamville). He’s a beast!! After every his verse on Sirens, I was like, ‘Oh’. He’s a monster, but if he’s going to shine, we gonna shine together! I’ve heard guys get killed on there on shit. J.Cole on Wale’s beautiful Bliss for example… He bodied Wale.
You once said, “Raider Klan, Odd future, Asap & Lil B made rap what it is today”. Explain what you meant by this.
And Gucci Mane. And Lil Wayne. And Soulja Boy. The tracks, the iconic ice cream face tats, fashion, everything. And the dark emo shit you hear today came from Raider Klan & ASAP — the dark swag, the beats… SmokePurp came up with that. If it wasn’t Blackland radio 66.6 none of that would have happened. And Old Future are pioneers, that’s where Raider Klan came from!
Describe your relationship with XXXTentacion and what living in the ULT house was like.
We would talk for hours, but there would also be the time we bumped heads, which always got ended with a simple conversation between us. As we were both Aquarius, we understood each enough to know we were on the same path and shared a common goal. He just handled things differently. The first time he came to the ULT house he tried to wrestle me.
He was always working, although wild af. He lived there when Ronny (RONNYJLISTENUP) and that’s how ‘I’m Sipping Tea in Yo Hood came about’. We have so much history, it was Ski (Ski Mask the Slump God) that asked if he could live with us. Even though we bumped heads, anytime I hit him up, he would always reply. Even if we didn’t talk for months, same thing every time. 3-hour conversations. The last conversation we had, we spoke about our issues in understanding each other and squash every itty bitty thing that was niggling us.
What happened to your brother in 2014, and what impact did that have on you, your music and life?
He was tased whilst in custody and they wouldn’t get my mother the autopsy report. He used to do backyard fighting. Without a job, he would do this. My brother’s occupation was crazy — he does anything and everything to put food on the table. From working at Coco’s, selling products out of a golf cart, wash cars. He was literally a legitimate ghost where no one knew where he was at any specific time. One day he said, ‘I’m off to New York’ but didn’t tell anyone what he was doing there. Next minute, we are watching 106 and Park and there he was! In the studio crowd, watching 106 and park. He was one of my biggest influence — we look exactly the same. Win or lose, he’ll come back home and he’ll give me and my brother money. One day he said, ‘Come ride with me’ to us. Before you know it, we ended up in church! A determined Capricorn, so when he couldn’t find an occupation, he made one. And I share that determination with him — a true hustler and an OG. I didn’t cry about his death until 2016, at one of my concerts when I realised whilst performing that my whole family was watching me, apart from him.
How did you cope without grieving for 2 years?
I was empty and couldn’t deal with it. Drinking, smoking, rocky relationships. And then I would see him pop up in my dreams in some crazy ways. I believe in duality and other reality where people exist in. So it shows that my brother has always been there for me. I look in the mirror and see my brother instead of my own face. His body may have left, but his spirit continues to live on and was dispersed between my whole family, which brought us together once again.
I don’t want my brothers who fight to go through something as traumatic as that to happen to me to bring them even closer. God gives you harsh lessons and the devil gives you obstacles. He be collecting souls, but it’s all a test.
What does practicing Muay Thai do for you?
Gets me cut up and ripped to go on tour and provides me with energy! The knowledge of that I can whoop someone’s ass just makes me not want to do it.
What is the best track song you’ve ever written and why?
This life. Because at that point I really showcased my true general emotions.
Clout Cobain illustrates one of the most thought-provoking visuals this year has seen. What was the creative process of both the track and the video?
I was just thinking about my life, my family, fame. The track actually came from me being sad and depressed about someone who was no longer my friend. The concept for the video started off as a joke about how people look for clout.
What can we expect from TA13OO and what is the concept behind the album?
I was just thinking about my life, my family, fame.
What advice would you give to a younger Denzel Curry?
Don’t listen to me because what you are doing is right.
Now for some quick-fire questions. Three live artists you’d love to work with you.
Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, and Jorja Smith. I promise I wouldn’t flirt with her, I’m about the music quality. I’ll friend zone before she friend zones me.
Describe an Aquarius in 3 words.
Openly crazy. Original. Lowkey emotion.
Where you see yourself in 5 years.
The king of the universe.
Favourite Kendrick bar?
You can’t act like no bitch, that only got Tyler Perry famous.
3 things you cannot live without.
My momma, my daddy, and my brothers.
Finally, your biggest fear?
Holding myself back.
TA13OO is out now. Preview below.