A rollercoaster on an acid trip
The new surprise project from rapper Denzel Curry and producer Kenny Beats, UNLOCKED, is like nothing the world of hip-hop has heard before. This album sounds akin to what a Madlib x DMX crossover may have sounded like within the early 2000s. Despite being only 18 minutes in length, this groundbreaking album packs a major punch that can only be understood by those who have undertaken it in its entirety.
Recently becoming one of the most sought after producers in the business, Beats has risen to new heights within this project, drawing upon countless sources of inspiration that can be heard throughout the extensive project. Beats’ use of classic sound bites and jazzy instrumentals provide this album with a feeling resembling the work of hip-hop production legend, Madlib, and yet so too carry with it elements of experimentation seen in new and more noise-based sub-genres.
Tracks such as “Track 01″ and “Track 07” that show Beats’ incredible abilities are just as phenomenal, if not more so, in isolation—as it is within these tracks. Within “Track 01,” listeners are immediately treated to a depth of production that previews an eclectic and dreamlike soundscape present within the rest of the album —though at times it can also feel quite nightmarish. Beats’ incorporation and distortion of film-reel-esque soundbites within the album’s introduction are a perfect match to Curry’s dual personality presented within his pointed yet brutally blunt hooks and verses. His lyrically bipolar nature is something that only goes to further accentuate the matchup between him and Beats. Although one is not always sure where either of them is going to take you, you know it’s going to be a wild and exciting ride.
Curry breaks into the first lyrical track striking the downbeat with the force of a magnitude 8.0 earthquake. Curry successfully marries literary-fueled lyrical concepts with hard-nosed street smarts—all while simultaneously allowing for his own vernacular to run the gamut with his core messages. Curry’s lyrical content ranges from that of Disney’s A Bug’s Life to poignant social commentary on the civil rights movement and its effect on the current socio-political state of affairs regarding culture and race. Curry’s use of pop culture references from the past, as well as the present, give this album the feeling of a well-versed artist expanding his horizons toward the future of hip-hop evolution.
Curry’s lyrics are both studied and yet approachable. They are eerie and off-putting at times, while still providing listeners a sense of camaraderie with Curry. On one of the album’s most powerful tracks “DIET_”, Curry begins the track cool, almost sounding soulful, seemingly channeling inspiration from the likes of fellow rap artist, J-Cole. However, halfway through the track, Curry puts the gas pedal through the floor, ending the track sounding much more akin to DMX. This is an extreme showcase of the phenomenal range of Curry’s style and approach to his music. Curry’s energy within this project is unmatched by any rapper in his stylistic genre and seems to progress more and more with each additional track.
This album goes to showcase the unreal talents of Curry, as well as Beats, allowing each artist enough breathing room to truly showcase their own individual style, while still managing to combine these two sounds into one unified musical message. It boggles the mind that such a huge undertaking could be completed within an 18-minute project, but Curry and Beats capitalize on this opportunity to showcase their wide-ranging talents. This range of creativity is further emphasized by the 23-minute music video released in tandem with the surprise album. Though the video does not add an incredible amount of depth to the meanings within the tracks, it stands as a monument to the imagination of the two.
This album has a very fluid and linear feel, seamlessly charting a path from start to finish with all assortments of stops and detours along the way. Each and every time that this album concludes, listeners are inevitably left wanting more. Again and again, Curry works himself up into a fury of emotion and explodes on the mic— providing listeners with a shell shocking, yet unforgettable, performance—while Beats’ work continues to push the pace concerning the integration of classic and contemporary schools of production within contemporary hip-hop. This project has left audiences insatiable for more collaboration between the pair who will no doubt remain in high demand in the foreseeable future.