Over the last several years, Denzel Curry has emerged as one of the most interesting and exciting rappers who is a part of the newest wave of Hip Hop. Since the mid-2010s, there have not been too many popular Hip Hop artists who are as eclectic and innovative as Denzel. He is the kind of artist true Hip Hop artists love; Denzel has been excellent at pushing the limit with the sound of his music while still respecting the artistry of the craft(especially through his lyricism and flows). Up until this point, Denzel Curry has been known as a brash, intense, and high-energy rapper who is always trying out new things with his music. His last two albums, 2018’s TA1300 and 2019’s ZUU are excellent examples of this. Both of these records have an ultra-modern, dark, and abrasive sound which provokes Denzel Curry to wear his emotions on his sleeve. The first single from his newest album, Melt My Eyez, See Your Future, actually has a more subdued sound that reminds me of late 90s and early 2000s Underground Hip Hop. This makes me very intrigued to hear where Denzel goes with this record; will it have that in-your-face futuristic sound that he’s been known for, will it have an older sound, or will it be a mix? I’m excited to find out. With that being said, here is how I feel about Denzel Curry’s Melt My Eyez, See Your Future. Please let me know in the comments how you feel about this record, and also comment on what your favorite songs from this record are.
The album starts with ‘Melt Session #1,’ which features Robert Glasper. Robert Glasper provides the production for this song; the melody and beat composed for ‘Melt Session #1’ sets a groovy, otherworldly, weird, and super interesting precedent for what’s to come on this record. ‘Melt Session #1’ is driven by a heavily synthesized keyboard riff that is super trippy and psychedelic sounding. The name of this song is honestly perfect because this riff has such a face-melting sound to it. The melody for this song is so, retro and foreign; it almost has an otherworldly feeling. I could imagine hearing this melody and beat with some man humming over them in a mind-blowing manner while sitting in some opium den in the 1970s. Denzel Curry uses a slightly subdued version of his signature high energy and gruff flow while he raps on this instrumental. The harsh nature of his rap and the mellow nature of the instrumental create a mind-numbing juxtaposition. In ‘Melt Session #1,’ Denzel talks about how all of the dark and terrible things that have happened to him have shaped how he has treated others over the years. Even though he has been through some horrible stuff(like being molested as a child), he knows it doesn’t give him the right to treat others badly. He is now trying to change his ways and learn from his shortcomings. The end of ‘Melt Session #1’ transitions perfectly into the next song, ‘Walkin.’ As Denzel repeats the outro over and over(‘I keep walkin, I keep walkin, I keep, melt…’), the instrumental from ‘Melt Session #1’ naturally fades into the instrumental from ‘Walkin.’ ‘Walkin’ was the first single released from this album. Hearing this track made it obvious to listeners that this record was not going to be what we have typically come to expect from Denzel. ‘Walkin’ starts out with a psychedelic Alternative Hip Hop sound that reminds me a lot of artists like A Tribe Called Quest or The Pharcyde. The melody is provided by a woman humming/singing a sweet and mesmerizing R&B-style tune over a light and funky Bass Guitar riff, and the beat has a slowed-up Boom-Bap feeling to it. About halfway through the song, the instrumental slightly switches up. The vocal melody becomes more layered and other weird sound effects start to be added. Also, the beat switches up from that old-school Boom Bap style to a modern Trap kind of beat. One interesting thing is when Denzel raps on the more old-school beat, he has a more relaxed flow and tempo. When the Trap beat kicks in, his delivery changes; in the second half of the song he sounds more intense, strung out, and ultimately angry. It is cool how the style of beat can change the way he raps so much. On ‘Walkin,’ is talking about the problems with our society and how much one can struggle in this life. He wants to create a better world for his child, but this could be difficult with how crazy our society is. Following this, we get ‘Worst Comes to Worst.’ This song has a different kind of retro Hip Hop sound to it. It has a way more underground feeling to it. I could see artists like Atmosphere, Aesop Rock, or El-P rapping on this beat back in the day. The melody for this one is driven by a chant-like vocal sample and a simple keyboard riff, and the beat has a very mechanical old school Hip Hop sound that’s so reminiscent of the late 90s. This song is full of lots of record scratching which helps give it that 90s feeling. In this song, Denzel takes a much more low-key approach to his delivery. He raps the verses and sings the chorus, and he keeps a tame, monotone approach to the vocals throughout the song. In ‘Worst Comes to Worst,’ Denzel discusses the social and economical problems of the world. He doesn’t know how to solve these problems but does know he’s going to do everything to protect and provide for himself and those close to him.
‘John Wayne,’ which features Buzzy Lee, has such a cool and unique sound. I don’t know if I’ve heard another Rap song on this kind of instrumental. The introduction of this song has a similar sound and feel to the track that precedes it. ‘John Wayne’ starts with a similar tone and style of underground Hip Hop to ‘Worst Comes to Worst.’ It is another case where one song directly transitions into the next. While this underground style of beat briefly plays, Buzzy Lee delivers soft and pretty vocals in the background of the instrumental. About 20 seconds into the song, though, there is a large “bang!” that sounds like a gunshot, and the instrumental starts to transition. The instrumental transitions to a shoe-gaze melody and beat that has such a psychedelic feeling to it. It sounds like something by Indie artists like Beach House or Tame Impala. Denzel raps with a gruff tone and a slow tempo over this trippy Soft Rock instrumental. His vocals over this melody and beat sound so nice because they contrast each other so well. In ‘John Wayne,’ Denzel is rapping about police brutality and his relationships with cops. He raps about specific instances of police brutality and lets us know why he feels the way he does about the police. ‘The Last’ is most definitely the most modern-sounding song on this record up until this point. This song has a Cloud Trap sound that reminds me of artists like Lil Uzi Vert or Young Thug. The melody has a bit of a Tropical and Caribbean feeling. It even sounds a bit Reggae to me; Denzel’s vocals add to this. I like how this sound brings out yet a different vocal style from Denzel. This album is showing off how diverse of a vocalist he is. In ‘The Last,’ Denzel is once again talking about racial injustice in this country. Lyrically, it is kind of an extension of the song that precedes it. Next, we get ‘Mental,’ which features Bridget Perez and Saul Williams. The melody for this song is based on a humming tune provided by Bridget Perez. The melody has a Jazzy R&B sound that feels like it’s from the 1960s; Bridget Perez’s humming is complemented by a Jazzy Piano riff and layered harmonies. Denzel has a subdued and calm nature to his rapping in this track. It goes with the instrumental. Saul Williams provides the outro for the song with a powerful poem that goes very well with the message of the song. On this track, Denzel is talking about suicidal thoughts and depression. He is opening up on a topic important to him that a lot of people can relate to. Following this is ‘The Troubles,’ which features T-Pain. This one has quickly become one of my favorite songs from the album(and the year). This song feels like an ode to the R&B Trap sound that T-Pain made so popular back in the day. It has a bright and vibrant melody and fast tempo, and it makes me think of some of T-Pain’s biggest hits. Hearing this song helps the listener realize just how much the modern R&B Trap sound was influenced by T-Pain. I could hear modern artists like Lil Mosey or 24KGoldn coming out with a song similar to this these days. Denzel’s gruff nature of rapping goes so well with T-Pain’s vocals; they really do sound so good together. In ‘The Troubles,’ Denzel and T-Pain talk about how no matter how much money you make, life will still have struggles. The problems don’t go away just because one has money.
‘Ain’t No Way,’ which features 6lack, JID, Rico Nasty, Jasiah, Powers Pleasant, and Kitty Ca$h, has quickly emerged as another favorite of nine from this record. It has a different kind of retro Hip Hop component than the rest of the record to this point. ‘Ain’t No Way’ has a sound that reminds me of the laid-back Southern Hip Hop sound originally made famous by groups like the Geto Boys, and later brought back to life by artists like Big KRIT. It has a tone and feeling that has elements of old-school Southern R&B, Gospel, and Rock. Denzel’s performance on this song is very good in its own right, but the main highlight of this song is the features; specifically, I love the features from Rico Nasty, 6lack, and JID. All three of these artists have very distinctive styles in the way they sing or rap, and all of them show off their styles while still staying true to the main theme and sound of the song. These artists all seem so natural together, which makes sense because they have all collaborated with each other before on other projects. On ‘Ain’t No Way,’ all of these artists are reflecting on their respective come-ups. It is still difficult for them to believe they have made it to the points they have gotten to. The next track, which is called ‘X-Wing,’ has the most traditional modern Trap sound up until this point. This one sounds like it could have come out the past five years ago, and it reminds me a lot of Future or Lil Baby. The melody for this song has such a 2010s Trap style to it; the melody is provided by a piano riff, and it is the kind of intimate piece that sounds so much like specifically Zaytoven or Metro Boomin. Denzel’s flow and vocal style have a bit of a Caribbean feel on this song. It sounds like he was influenced by the Latin Trap sound that is prevalent in the area that surrounds him, i.e. South Florida and the Caribbean. On ‘X-Wing,’ Denzel is rapping about how the materialistic culture we live in breeds hate. No one is ever satisfied and everyone is always jealous because they can see the things others have that they don’t. On ‘Angels,’ which features Karriem Riggins, Denzel goes back to an old-school underground Hip Hop beat. This is another one I could see artists like Atmosphere or El-P on in the early 2000s. The instrumental is fairly simple; it is driven by a basic Hip Hop beat (provided by Jazz drummer Karriem Riggins)and a piano melody complimented by angelic humming in the background. The melody has a very melancholy and somber tone, which goes perfectly with the harsh and mean vocal style Denzel raps with on this one. The melody adds to the emotion of his rapping in this song. ‘Angels’ is a song about building your self-worth and getting over your vices. Denzel is constantly working on becoming the best version of himself he can be. At 1:20, ‘The Smell of Death’ is a quick track that contains a quick verse and refrain from Denzel. This verse is delivered over a very distorted and gritty Wu-Tang style instrumental. The instrumental has a quirky and experimental Jazz Hip Hop sound that once again has an underground feeling to it. It enhances the dark and intense way of rapping Denzel excels at. This song raps about not being able to get some of the thoughts and feelings he had in his youth to go away. When you have been through what Denzel has been through, certain things can be tough to get over and forget.
‘Sanjuro,’ which features 454, brings back the modern Trap sound we briefly got earlier in the record. This song has a way more harsh and heavy sound than the other modern Trap music on this record. This song has such a heavy and tough sound. The distorted, heavy bass line that drives the beat gives the song so much intensity. I love this sound for Denzel, as it brings out his gruff and fierce nature in such a big way. 454 provides the chorus on this track. His high and nasally voice contrasts Denzel’s so well; it makes Denzel’s section sound everts dark and hard. On ‘Sanjuro,’ Denzel and Sanjuro are talking about growing up in Florida. It seems like it is just as crazy to grow up there as one would imagine. Following this, we get ‘Zatoichi,’ which features slowthai. This track has a totally unique sound that is tough to compare to anything. The instrumental has a distorted Industrial Rock sound which is mixed with a Wu-Tang style 90s Hip Hop sound. It is so rough and harsh yet smooth and atmospheric at the same time. This instrumental is a combination of multiple 90s styles of music, and it sounds ultra-modern and futuristic. During the chorus and also the end of the track, the beat takes a turn, morphing into a breakbeat sort of sound that reminds me of 90s underground Rave music. These transitions just add to and enhance the already chaotic sound of this song. On ‘Zatoichi,’ Denzel and slowthai are rapping about the Japanese superhero that has this name. Denzel and slowthai see themselves as heroes fighting off evil, using their pen and pad instead of a sword and shield. The album closes out with ‘The Ills.’ Similar to son ex tracks earlier on the record, this one has a late 90s/early 2000s underground Hip Hop sound. The melody is provided by a jazzy piano riff, and the beat has a clunky old-school quality to it. Denzel’s vocal tone on this one almost feels like that of a preacher. He has a very assertive flow that makes him feel like a leader. On ‘The Ills,’ Denzel is talking about his mental health and how he is trying to get better. He knows he needs to work on his mental health and is searching for solutions to these problems. It is not a positive way to end the record, but it is a super real way to do so.
Melt My Eyez, See Your Future is one of the most consistently great albums I have heard in a long time. Every single song on this album is at least very good, and most of them are great. The album consistently stays on deep topics such as Denzel’s dark past, his mental health, and his feelings on inequality in America. Even though this record has so many different kinds of instrumentals, they still mesh together well. This has a lot to do with how great the sonic transitions were at the ends and beginnings of each song. Denzel was already known as being one of the most sophisticated and innovative rappers in the game, and this record further pushes than narrative. Melt My Eyez, See Your Future is my favorite record of 2021 up until this point, and I don’t know if anything can surpass it.