Denzel Curry is one of my favorite rappers. I loved his technical ability, energy and over-the top delivery. TA13OO is one of my favorite albums in the past decade due to how powerful it is lyrically, sonically and topically. ZUU was good but it was super short and not cohesive in my opinion. It was weird to see an artist in his caliber lack this much cohesion in an album. When UNLOCKED came, it was even shorter but there were skits that came into play that made it a little more cohesive. I knew that Zel & Kenny would be a dope combo since day 1 and once they finally came in, their style took me by surprise.
One thing that makes this album intergalactic and spacy is the production. Kenny Beats is no stranger to new ideas. He is one of the most versatile producers of our time. On this record he takes his old school hip hop influence to create production that is spacy and intergalactic. The drums are slightly off-kilter, the samples are lo-fi and the 808s are squelching and sharp. The gripes come to play when he starts to become a little too derivative and I’ll explain it a little more when I talk about influences. Other than that, I think the production is really sharp and clean.
Denzel Curry is another chameleon when it comes to merging. Whether if its taking his Memphis influences over a dark trap beat or going slick over some OutKast inspired production. On this record, he seems to bring his usual bravado to some very gritty old school boom bap. Coming with quotable one-liners, versatile flows and multiple tone changes. Overall, I also think that Zel can compliment the production fairly well on this.
One thing that is noticeable first listen Is the influences they are taking. I never saw neither Kenny Beats as people who showed influences this clearly. Songs like “Take_it_Back_v2” and “So.Incredible.pkg” sound straight out of a RZA hard drive. The second part of “Take_it_Back_v2” also sounds super Madlib inspired with the clanky percussion and precise sample chopping. Denzel isn’t a stranger to showing his influences as well on this album. There are a lot of times where he sounds like an 11th Wu-Tang member. Sometimes he even brings a monotonous flow that sounds similar to MF DOOM. Speaking of MF DOOM, the skits couldn’t have been more DOOM-like. On “DIET_” Denzel brings his best DMX impression on the hook. Another influence that is kind of hidden is Gorillaz. There are definitely synth lines that could’ve been on Demon Days. I think despite going a little board on their influences, they use it pretty well.
The Vocal Edits
I never understood the vocal edits on this record But sonically its a cool addition. Despite it sounding good, the score card goes a little down because I feel like the glitchy vocals is just an excuse to not write another verse.
It’s pretty clear that I think both Denzel and Kenny can come off a little derivative and the vocal edits are kind of pretentious. Other than that, it’s really hard to note a con due to the fact that there is no filler on this 17 minute album.
This album was pretty hard to review. The music that IS on here packs the punch but there just isn’t enough music to really bring to a cohesive verdict. I loved the material on here but a part of me just wants so much more. It honestly feels like more of an EP to me but as an EP, it’s one really good one.
**UNLOCKED 1.5 BONUS MINI REVIEW**
Written Before Listen
So if you don’t know, Denzel Curry is a Floridian rapper and last year collaborated with Connecticut producer Kenny Beats on UNLOCKED. My thoughts of it are already out there as that was my previous review. I liked it a lot despite the slight absence of cohesion and originality. I think Zel and Kenny made quite a good collaboration. Now in 2021, Kenny brought new producers and new rappers to appear on a remix album called UNLOCKED 1.5. Looking at the feature list, we have a unique list of rappers and producers from multiple different genres. I wonder how different this album will be knowing who’s on.
So I feel like to get the weird little concept that occurs in UNLOCKED, you have to watch the short film and the 1.5 trailer. It shows the story of Kenny Beats & Denzel Curry trying to get leaked songs and they get stuck in cyberspace while the evil versions of Kenny and Denzel make a remix album with new features and producers. It’s kind of tacky but matches Denzel’s character
So the team of producers on this album is quite eclectic. The “So.Incredible.pkg” remix shows producer Robert Glasper creating an atmospheric synth-based beat that replaces the hardcore Wu-Tang inspired one. Next track, we have another producer in a similar vein to Glasper with Georgia-Anne Muldrow that has spacy and glistening instrumentation over these clunky drum breaks. We then get the Alchemist contribution on the “Cosmic.m4a” remix that is futuristic and very similar to an old school El-P beat off of Fantastic Damage. We then get Trap-based producer Charlie Heat going out of his comfort zone with the “Take_It_Back.v2” remix. The First beat has the Run The Jewels vibe that the Alchemist beat had and the second beat sounding straight out of Big L’s “Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous”. The first half of the beats aren’t bad and they fit the mood somewhat well. The second half if where the remixes start to feel offset. The next track features producer Sango creating something eccentric and misty and doesn’t compliment Zel’s ferocious punchlines on the “Pyro (lead 2019)” remix. Jay Versace makes a straight up vaporwave beat with Denzels aggressive style on the “Lay_Up.m4a” remix which doesn’t compliment Denzel whatsoever. Weird as that sounds, its not as weird as the second “Take_It_Back.v2” remix that is a straight up Drum and Bass song. Yeah, the production couldn’t be more of a mixed bag on this record.
The features on this thing do a pretty good job. On the “So.Incredible.pkg” remix, Smino comes in with this very buttery flow that is a great foil to Denzels aggression. I could say the same think about Kenny Mason on the “Pyro (leak 2019)” remix. We also get some New York rappers to really fit the original UNLOCKED vibe. Joey Bada$$ comes with his typical New York flow on the Alchemist beat on “Cosmic.m4a” and none other than Benny The Butcher delivers a great verse over the original “DIET_” beat. It’s easy to say that the features all do their job here.