With all of the drama and negative light being shone on South Florida, Denzel Curry is the loudest voice to bring the perspective of the youth to the people. His long-awaited debut album, Nostalgic 64, is a gripping, politically shattering body of work, that takes on a host of issues that Denzel has been facing, from gang violence to his friends getting locked up, to perhaps the most prevalent theme, oppression of black youth. This is the first major project we’ve seen from Denzel, and he’s thrusting his best foot forward and onto the scene.
Reader’s note: I was assisted in the writing of this review by Raider Klan scholar, Chris Levintow. He is on Twitter.
If you start your listen of Nostalgic 64 at any point in the album, it will become very obvious to you that the tone is dark, perhaps some of the darkest material from any rapper this year. The production from underground killers, like South Florida’s Lofty305, POSHtronaut, Nuri, and Rem, to name a few, sets the perfect scene for Denzel’s hard-hitting bars. Samples of gentle rainfall juxtaposed with helicopter blades whirring and guns firing really hits home, and provides a holistic listening experience that really explicates Denzel’s agenda. The use of piano on tracks like “N64”, “Like Me”, and “Denny Cascade” helps him enforce his tone, while at the same time provides a natural element to everything, in a rap world where synths rule everything around us.
The album starts off with an intro that is “cinematic” as Chris puts it, a perfect precursor for the audio film that the listener is about to experience. “Zone 3”, the second track, begins, and the message is immediately known: “This is dedicated to the memoir of my n—as”. With a “lo-fi beat and a Powerpuff Girls reference,” Chris says, “he’s rapping about one of the hardest struggles for him and his friends, the police and white people and their stigma towards black youth,” and seeing as how Trayvon Martin was from Carol City (Zone 3), he’s not too far off.
We see this same theme coming up in “Dark & Violent”, “A Day In The Life of Denzel Curry Pt. 2”, “Mystical Virus 3: The Scream”, and on “N64” with the news cut from a Trayvon Martin report. Not all of his tracks though have the same substance, but they do certainly share a coherent sound. “Threatz”, “Benz”, and “Denny Cascade” are three straight-up great-sounding tracks that don’t necessarily preach a greater message, but importantly, they all prop Denzel’s bars on a pedestal, right where they should be. Underground rap stars and Denzel’s friends Robb Bank$, Yung Simmie, Lil Ugly Mane, and JK The Rapper all come onto the project not to take Denzel’s quality away, but rather to support him and the ambience he’s trying to bring to the project. Chris couldn’t stress enough that “the true genius is Denzel, his bars are elevated”, and I can’t stress it enough either. All of the messages and all of the agendas and all of the sounds come together seamlessly to create one hell of a debut.
The line between mixtape and album has been becoming more and more blurred as of late, with young, underground rappers releasing “albums” at or lower than mixtape caliber, and some mixtapes sound more and more like albums. “This feels like a great album with continuity, not just a collection of songs” says Chris, and he’s absolutely right. For a young, underground rapper, and on his debut, no less, Denzel Curry has put on quite an impressive showing, with one excellently cohesive project under his belt, the future seems very bright for the young south Floridian. “Nostalgic 64 will raise the standard for young artists trying to break out on ‘the scene.’ The overall production caliber is off the charts and so many great artists were involved and it shows,” and even though Chris summed up an entire interview in two sentences, he’s absolutely right. Denzel Curry, an 18-year-old rapper, on his first album, has escalated the expected quality in the underground rap game, something that, these days, was much, much needed.
4 out of 5
You can purchase Nostalgic 64 on Amazon.
Note: Chris’s official rating is an 8/10 loaded glocks