The Come Up: Denzel Curry
Inside Miami lies Carol City, Florida, a place most known for spawning rappers like Rick Ross, Flo Rida and Gunplay. Yet 20-Year-Old Denzel Curry’s spacy lyrics and psychedelic visuals bring forth something fresh. The South Florida native released his debut album, Nostalgic 64, in 2013, catapulting him to the top of Florida's hip-hop radar, only to wind up taking a step back after his initial success. Now, after cooking up more material, Curry is back at it after the release of his double EP 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms, efforts that have the rapper’s future beaming bright.
Although Curry’s diverse flow and complex lyrics allude to that of an MC from a rich musical background, the rapper’s upbringing was anything but that. The youngest of four brothers, Curry became interested in rapping from the music his brothers played around the house growing up. After realizing the appeal of MCs hailing from his hometown, Curry began to take interest in the sport.
The summer before high school, the young MC released his debut mixtape, inspired by Big K.R.I.T., titled Curry Was Here. In 2011, at age 16, he met SpaceGhostPurrp, leader of the hip-hop collective Raider Klan [stylized as RVIDXR KLVN] and a producer for A$AP Rocky and Wiz Khalifa, through mutual friends and joined the clique. Purpp allowed Curry to use his platform to debut his second mixtape, King Remembered. In 2012, he released King Of The Mischievous South Vol. 1 1996,” which caught the attention of Earl Sweatshirt and Odd Future. Before graduation, he dropped the Strictly for my R.V.I.D.X.R.Z tape, with the death of Trayvon Martin as an influence; they both attended Carol City High School.
Curry then split with RVIDXR KLVN due to creative differences, and unveiled his debut album, Nostalgic 64, in 2013 independently through C9, a label founded by his manager, Mark Maturah. “Threatz,” the LP's single, popped instantly online with the help of Sway, grabbing over 4 million views on YouTube.
“C9 is a crew I started back in 2009,” says Maturah. “While I was managing Denzel, we were going through differences on the business side with Raider Klan. Ultimately, Denzel decided to step away and stand on his own. I think the next project is honestly going to be one of his strongest.”
The deaths of both his brother and a friend then led Curry to take a two-year break. During that time he crafted his latest releases. In June, he unveiled 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms, a project that has received over one million plays on SoundCloud. He plans to follow with a free album titled Imperial in the next year while continuing his quest for stardom—or, in his terms, "'Til I’m chillin’ in Brazil with large amounts of money, big ass bags of weed and bad bitches.”
Get to know Denzel Curry in The Come Up. —Miranda J.
On Getting Into Hip-Hop:
Denzel Curry: I grew up in a house with parents, four brothers and one of them died. One of my brothers used to play the trumpet in middle school and whatnot. Then when my brothers got older, they would always be into the mixtapes that would come out, like [Lil Wayne's] Dedication 2 and [Jeezy's] Thug Motivation 101. My brother that’s two years older than me, he put me up on Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka, shit like that. Me, I would just be digging in the crates listening to stuff like Big L, R.A. The Rugged Man and MF Doom, just underground shit. Stuff like the Wu-Tang spawns, like Killah Priest and stuff like that. I got into other shit as I got older.
Coming out of Carol City, we had different sections, but I guess it’s all like one area. You know how neighborhoods go. The people that were coming out from there, you had people like JT Money going to schools in Liberty City to places like Norland. Then Rick Ross graduated from Carol City High School. Gunplay, who is also part of MMG, Triple Cs, Flo Rida, Briscoe; I was looking at them like, "Damn, these guys are coming from the same city I’m from." It was either rapping like them or being different. I knew I was different from the jump because I wasn’t rapping about the same shit, but I was young as fuck though. So I couldn’t really say too much shit.
I just used to see [shit]. I remember when my brother was going to college and he showed me his first tape where he was rapping. I was like, "That’s you rapping?" I was young as hell. I wasn’t even 12. I was around nine or 10. It was like, "Oh, he’s famous because he’s rapping." Then I had cousins and shit. I remember the first time I saw my cousin with suicide doors on his car and he was rapping. He used to run with Ross and them back in the day before he got jammed up in prison for like three years. I didn’t even know he used to be a drug dealer and shit; I just thought it was rapping. So the curiosity kept building. Then seeing people like Mike Jones come out and watching old music videos like “Stay Fly” from Three 6 Mafia. Then when I got older, I started digging back to the old shit to see what everyone was talking about.
The first time I heard Nas... Like, when I heard Illmatic and I was like, This is a great album." But before I heard Illmatic, I was looking at the Jay Z-Nas beef. I was first into Jay Z when he was coming out with Kingdom Come. I just remember looking at the albums and stuff, hearing all of his old shit. I didn’t even know him and Nas had that type of a beef until I got into Nas after hearing “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” and “Hip-Hop Is Dead.” That was the first thing I heard and then I went back and started listening to all of the other shit. That’s when I found out about the Jay Z and Nas beef and that built my curiosity. To be honest, I just remember the little barber shop chats. You know when you’re getting your hair cut and talking shit. They were talking about the Jay Z and Nas beef. I was like, "I honestly thought Nas won, in my opinion." They were like, "Jay Z got the money and the bars. What are you talking about?" I was like, "Nah, I think Nas won that shit." I still debate about that shit to this day.
On Beginning To Rap:
Denzel Curry: I put out a mixtape before I hit 9th grade. That was just like whatever, just throwing shit out. Nobody was even really paying attention to me. Just like my close friends were like, "Yo, this is kind of tight." Then a lot of things were happening at this time in my life when I hit 10th Grade. I got kicked out of art school. I got kicked out of this school called Design & Architecture Senior High. My parents split up, everybody went their separate ways. My brother was doing his little backyard fighting shit and my other brother had a baby on the way. The other one I don’t even talk to and Rashad was in college. So, it was just me and my father. I had a choice of going with my mother but I chose to go with my father instead because me and him have a better relationship. He understands who I am. Not only just my art and my music, but overall.
From that day, I heard Blvcklvnd Rvdix 66.6 for the first time. SpaceGhostPurrp, I met him around the time he came to New York and was fucking with Rocky, back when that whole A$AP x RVIDXR KLVN shit was popping. I joined RVIDXR after that because I got his number from Mike Dece, who is a close friend of mine. He’s also part of C9. We were just talking about how we were going to join and make this shit pop and just be better than all these other fucking rappers that are coming out of our city.
[I put] out [King Remembered] through Purrp’s page and all his fans were checking me out like, "Who’s Denzel Curry? Is this Purp?" Then I did the King Of The Mischievous South Vol. 1 1996 tape. I did the song called “CREEP CREEP DEVILZ!!!!!!!,” which Purp posted again and it ended of catching the attention of Mark Maturah, who is my manager now.
On Getting His First Buzz:
Denzel Curry: I dropped this mixtape called Strictly For My Raiders [when I was 17] and I did this song called “Strictly For My Raiders” that got underground buzz. But before that it was two songs I did. The first one was “Twistin’” featuring Lil Ugly Mane. It was featured on his project called Mr. Thug Isolation. Then “Gangkin” with JK The Reaper, he’s also part of C9 but at the time, I was part of RVIDXR and he was Fame Life. He’s still Fame Life. That song ended up making it bubble. "Twistin'" was getting played on BBC Radio. Lumis from Tonight was spinning “Twistin'”. Purrp was really bubbling but I was just tryna get up to that caliber. When I seen people like Purrp and Robb Bank$ doing stuff together, bubbling and putting on for the city, it just made me want to snap harder. And I got tired of people hitting me up for shit.
I wanted to blend my artistic vision with the shit I was doing with my music. I feel like they go hand in hand. I don’t want have to be no rap nigga. A rap nigga only pretends to rap with no creativity at all. I’m not like that. I’m a visionary.
I didn’t want to drop another mixtape because I didn’t want to be known as mixtape rapper. If I was going to set the bar, I was going to set it right then and there to show I’m just as hard as these other guys coming out. RVIDXR Klan was used as a platform until things went sour and I had to look from the outside looking in like, "This is not for me." I have to be an independent person, but still keep it cool with everyone until something happens.
When “Threatz” [from Nostalgic 64] came out, it popped. That was the song that popped. Then when we did the video, it really popped because they didn’t expect to see a video like that. It was really crazy and the visuals were wild. I wanted it to be weird. Plus I was so inspired by [The Underachievers'] “Herb Shuttles,” when I first saw that video. I was like, "Man, this is so creative." It’s creative as hell.
On Linking With His C9 Label:
Denzel Curry: Well, C9 is broken into two generations. Mark was the founder of C9 and the original C9 was Jay Nicks, Fresh James, Sean Buck, Personal, Golden and Lil Champ Fe. Everybody dispersed, but they all kept cool with Mark. Unkle Luc was also part of it, too. He was the camera man behind the scenes. He did videos like “Parents” and “Threatz.” He also did Future’s video “Trap Niggas.” When it came to that, Mark was going to dead it because it did disband; everybody was doing their own thing. Instead, I was like, "Let me take that shit over. C9 is not dead, I fuck with that C9 shit. If you just dead it, it’ll just be a waste of time. Just go harder." So when it came down to that, I was the first representer of C9 and I became like the leader of it. Generation 2.
Generation 2 is myself, Yoshi Tompkin—who is Golden from the first generation’s younger brother—JK The Reaper, S Dot Bratty and Mike DC. On the production side it’s Reem, Postronaunt from Metro Zoo, Ronnie J and Leno our engineer.
On 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms:
Denzel Curry: I worked on 2 EPs called 32 Zel and Planet Shrooms. It’s just a continuation from Nostalgic. Nostalgic was me during my high school life. Like, everything that was going on during that time, I was speaking on that. Like the whole Trayvon Martin situation. I was there when kids were walking out of that school, protesting Trayvon’s murder. I was there during all that shit. I saw people robbed. I witnessed people get killed. I remember taking acid for the first time and it made me want to write about that. The ending of the whole Nostalgic was just basically saying, "Life is completely no game at all. You shouldn’t take it lightly because tomorrow is not promised. I could not be here today." So that was the main reason why I made Nostalgic and it continued into 32 Zel, because I literally lost people that was close to me. My friend Tiara, after two days of chillin’ with her, she got murdered. I was just taking shrooms at the time. I went to her wake on shrooms and had to do a show in New York the next day.
[It was] very dark. I separated both EPs. I created Planet Shrooms first and during the process of creating Planet Shrooms, that’s when I found out my brother died. I was just thinking about everything and I was going on a tour at the time. Then people that I used to be in a group with started dissing me. That’s why I keep my distance from certain people now. Everybody will be in your face like, "Yeah, I’m real," but they never come through. I’m not with the halfway shit. If you’re 50/50 then don’t fuck with me at all.
I’m not really an emotional person, but when something really bothers me, I get really sensitive about it. I’ll just keep talking about it until I actually release it. The main thing is what I learned, experiences and pain.
[Next up is] a free album. Imperial, within in the next year. [I won't stop until I'm] chillin’ in Brazil with large amounts of money, big ass bags of weed and bad bitches.