Photo credit: GL Askew II
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We’ve been looking forward to talking to Denzel Curry for a while and this conversation did not disappoint. It’s like he can’t stop himself from being authentic and forth right, he’s open here about his frustrations and his competitive landscape in his commitment to his art. And we want to match his level of straight forwardness, so we’re going to take a second to talk about an exchange that happens about three minutes in, because I fucked up.
Denzel says on the song Sirens, “And I never voted, never sugar coated,” So I asked him about that, about voting and in particular the electoral college, and Denzel said he won’t ever vote because his vote is just a suggestion when it comes down to it, because of the electoral college. And I said, “I know a lot of people who feel that way, but, the electoral college hasn’t ever actually gone against what the people suggested that they do.” But, that isn’t 100 percent accurate. Nope.
Denzel said to me, “You think that ?” and I was like, “Yeah I do,” but in my head I was like, “Do I know that?” So I did my research. The most accurate way to say what Frannie was trying to say is, those members of the electoral college who have voted differently from how they were told by the people, they’re called faithless actors. They have never managed to change the outcome of a presidential election. And they’re few and far between. I can now go long on who did this when, but it’s enough to say in 2016 out of 538 electors, 7 of them disobeyed the voters of their state, another 3 tried to, but state rules stopped them, and Trump won by 77 electoral votes.
But I think maybe the bigger point is that the electoral college isn’t involved in the mid term elections coming up next month. Right so as the conversation with Denzel proceeded, we talked about why voting isn’t very satisfying when you know the history of the electoral college, which is inextricably tied to slavery and racism and when the candidates don’t care about what you care about. Denzel pointed out that some people just vote and think that’s enough, like after that its on the president. But real change happens on the community level, and all those things are true. But as Ali said at one point, if we decide not to vote even for noble reasons, than the person who does decide to vote, overrides us. Also, again theres no electoral college with these primaries happening now and in November. This year your vote is not in anyway a suggestion.
In conclusion, I apologize to Denzel for being overconfident in my assertion. I also want to say that this info is for everybody expect black women, who already know and to whom we all owe a great debt.
Okay serious moment over, lets get to our interview with Denzel curry.
DENZEL CURRY: And I'm Zel-Tron 6 Billion aka Denzel Curry, your friendly, unfriendly neighborhood Zel-Tron aka Denzel.
ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD: Do I say Denzel or Zel?
DENZEL CURRY: Either one.
FRANNIE KELLEY: He always wants to get it right.
ALI: Nah, I have to, you know –
DENZEL CURRY: Nah. You can call me Zel-Tron or Zel or just Denzel. But in this interview, you can just call me by my real name, which is Denzel.
ALI: All good, man. Thank you for coming to Microphone Check.
DENZEL CURRY: Already.
ALI: Already. What's going on in your world?
DENZEL CURRY: Chilling. Traveling every day. Working on new music now. The album just came out. Everybody's not sleeping on it. So that's good. That's a bonus. One of my videos is really popping right now, which is "Clout Cobain." And, yeah, I can't complain right now, man. I'm chilling.
ALI: That's good, and it's good to get back to it. Cause sometimes people take way too long.
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah. I mean, I took like – I probably took a year and a half making this project, and then I was just like, I'm finna get – let me just keep the ball rolling while I got – while I'm up right now.
ALI: What's the inspiration behind TA13OO?
DENZEL CURRY: Well, the inspiration was – at first, it was talking about things that normally people don't talk about, like molestation, hatred, basically your feelings and what's going on in the world. And I look at the whole rap game, I look at music in general, and nobody really touches on the subjects I touched on, unless you're someone older or had those experiences. You get me?
But in my generation, nobody really touched on those subjects, especially when everything is going around with, you know, – the #MeToo thing's happening, feminists, the presidential election, Donald Trump, basically the current state of hip-hop and the rap game, stuff like that. Like, jealousy, hatred, just basic emotions that people think they don't have. But I'm just telling you it's OK to be sensitive and stuff like that, because I had to look at things and see people go through these things, and even personal experiences of hatred and jealousy and stuff like that, and holding grudges. I just put it all into this one project.
And originally, it was supposed to start off dark. But that was the main topics and the main inspiration for this project. It was just life, period.
ALI: Well, I love the way it begins. It starts off actually beautiful and lush. It ended real dark.
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah, it supposed to. Cause usually albums are like – it starts off really dark and then it goes light. This one I was like –
ALI: Two things you just mentioned I wanted to talk about. One, the election with Donald Trump.
DENZEL CURRY: Yes.
ALI: So you said that you weren't a voter.
DENZEL CURRY: Never voted. Still didn't vote.
ALI: Never voted. Are you thinking about changing that? Because I get from the song – it seems like to me my interpretation of it is that it's more being revolutionary than just voting, being more active.
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah. Cause usually, back in the day, it was revolutionary to vote as a black person. Now, I think it's more revolutionary to not vote. I'm not saying to – don't quote me on that. But like, I'm just saying, in my opinion, I would not vote. Because I'm just a suggestion when it goes down to the electoral college, if you really want to break it down. We're all just suggestions of who we think the president should be. But at the end of the day, it's not our say-so of who the president should be. It's the electoral college.
FRANNIE: Well, I gotta say – cause I know that a lot of people say that. I have a lot of friends who say that. And the fact is that the electoral college hasn't ever actually gone against what the people suggested that they do.
DENZEL CURRY: You think so.
FRANNIE: Yeah. In the national and the presidential election. I'm not saying trust a politician, but I am saying that when you vote, it isn't automatically taken away by that process.
DENZEL CURRY: True. But there's also choices. I don't have the choices that I want. I don't know about this guy, and I don't know about this guy. Either way, it's fighting for the lesser evil at the end of the day –
FRANNIE: Yeah, for sure.
DENZEL CURRY: – when it comes down to me voting for a president.
ALI: This is true. I just – I was curious about it, because I know the younger generation definitely feels the ways you're expressing. And I as well. I don't agree with the electoral process of electing a president. It should be every vote should count, but America's not set up that way. However, I know that, in using your word "suggestion," if I put my vote in the box, then that suggestion is counted. And if we decide not to, then someone else's suggestions will override. The population, the higher population part of it, when it kicks over to electoral, weighs more than population aspect.
And so, just when I heard that, I understood your sentiment in song, and I just felt or hoped, considering the state of where we are and how many people really just sat out on the last one, that we see the results and feel like, "Alright, that didn't work, me sitting out didn't work. I have to do something different if I'm" – cause if not, then what's next?
DENZEL CURRY: But the main thing is everybody depends on the president to get change done, when it should really be the people that get change done.
DENZEL CURRY: Be your own president. Don't worry about the president. Like, they gotta worry about some other shit. I gotta worry about what's in my community and about my well-being and my family, what's going on in my life right now. That's the way I could play the president, and it's better to be firsthand on the street, to know your neighborhood and know everything that's going on for you to change it.
And I feel like there's not really – a president doesn't go into the street and do that. "This is like a suit. I just look like I'm about to make change done." But the people that's actually laying the groundwork is the people itself, to make that change.
ALI: Yeah, that's true. The other thing that you just mentioned was – it seems like you're talking about a lot of pain, painful things. People consider it be outsiders. You had this song off your previous album called "Gook." Have you felt like you weren't accepted in your neighborhood, your community?
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah. I only have one – a couple true friends I could say – call my friends. But everybody were like, I would say, treated me like I was a weirdo.
ALI: It's good to be a weirdo sometimes! When you listen –
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah. I mean, it's great to be a weirdo, but it was just at that stage, nobody – people won't like you when they don't understand you. And basically that's how life is. It's a lack of understanding from – including cultures. So when it came down to me as a person, it was a lack of understanding. Yeah, I may be annoying. Yeah, I may have a lot of energy to give. Yeah, I may be bouncing off the walls being Bugs Bunny or what not, but I'm a good person. You just never took the time to understand me as a person or an individual.
And that's why I'm not friends with certain people to this day. Because if you have a lack of understanding about me, why should I try to be friends with you when you want to change me? So I wouldn't want to be like that. If you try to change me, I'm not gon' fuck with you.
ALI: Well, I love the fact that your music sounds – even though it sounds dark, it sounds uplifting. I hear the hope. I hear passion. I hear love in your music. I hear that you care. And that's something that you don't really hear that much in the more contemporary hip-hop. It's a lot of me, me, me, me, me in the music. At least, from what I'm hearing, from the multitude of –
DENZEL CURRY: Hey. Narcissism goes a long way. Narcissism, ego. And they just take both of those and put it into a melody, because melody always wins at the end of the day, especially in this day and age where you could rap your ass off – you could be the best rapper – but nobody will listen to you, because nobody takes the time to comprehend it.
I even said this to my manager. Like, nobody – after "Ultimate," nobody was trying to listen to me. But the moment I started singing, which was on "Clout Cobain," that's when everybody was like, "Who's this? Who's this new guy?" And I realized, damn, melody does really win at the end of the day.
ALI: Was that conscious choice when you went in to record?
DENZEL CURRY: Yes.
DENZEL CURRY: I'm not a conscious rapper. I just – I just speak – I just say real shit. I would never want to be put in a box of being conscious, cause I could say some stupid shit. I could say, "Rahduhrahduhrahduh" on a record and get away with it. But, you know, it's just – when I was making the decision to make "Clout Cobain," that was from depression. Struggling with friendships, struggling with fame, and all that stuff.
And literally that same day I recorded that, I got into a fight with somebody who had a lacking of understanding of me and me having a lacking of understanding of them. But months later after the song came out, I was like, "Yo" – I called the person. I was like, "Yo, you inspired this song that I made. Even if we don't talk to this day, I'll still give credit where it's due. You did inspire me to make this song." And she was like, "Yo, for real?" And I was like, "Yeah. You inspired me to make this."
And that's what it was. Because it was like, one thing triggered all my other feelings, and I just put it all into one record. Cause when I get mad, you never know what's going to come out. And the crazy thing about it is when I get mad, I make the most beautiful shit, when I get mad.
ALI: So when you get mad, is it – your approach is wholly about your being upset in that moment or is it really about the end, how you ideally would like to see things?
DENZEL CURRY: I don't know. I just wanted to get the feelings out, so I won't feel like that, you know? That was whole thing. When I get mad and I'm about to record, you never know what's going to come out. I don't get super angry and be like, "Raaaah!" I don't that. Cause it's not going – I do that for fun. But when it's something where I'm really mad, I just (takes a deep breath) and say it.
There's only two records on the album where I got either mad or sad making it. When I was mad, I made "Percs." When I was mad, I made "Clout Cobain." But "Clout Cobain" was a combination between mad and sad at the same time.
FRANNIE: So what made you realize that melody is super effective?
DENZEL CURRY: I was going to these festivals, and I was always wondering like, "Hmm, why am I not getting the shine that I always wanted?" And then I listen to the radio. I see YouTube videos, and I seen just going to these festivals and looking at fan egagement. And when I was looking at fan engagement, everything they was saying in a crowd was something they could sing along to.
And I seen that firsthand when I was watching XXX set, and when I was watching Uzi set, and I was watching Trippie set, and I was watching – just most of these guys' set. Even Kendrick and Beyoncé. I just noticed with everything melody was winning. Melody, melody, melody, melody, melody, melody. Because not everybody's going to recite all the raps unless it's broken down simply.
FRANNIE: Right. Cause it's too hard.
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah. Even Kid Cudi, watching him perform live, you ever see everybody do the song "Pursuit of Happiness?"
ALI: Yeah, it's like a trance.
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah.
DENZEL CURRY: Even Tyler's new stuff. "Find some time. Find some time to do some things." I was like, "Yo, Tyler figured it out." And that's somebody who was doing hardcore music first. And I'm just like, yo, melody wins, and I told my manager like, "Melody really wins."
And that's what made me think about the whole album. Because it was – at first it was gon' be dark and just rappity-rap hardcore stuff. And then I was like – I was gon' alienate a lot of people, and not get the people that I wanted, so I started making more tracks more melodic. That's why you get stuff like "Taboo" and "Black Balloons" and "Cash Maniac." Everything had to have a melody or something catchy. Cause if it wasn't melodic, it was catchy. And if it wasn't catchy, it was real.
Even "Sirens," which is probably the second – next to "Clout Cobain," this one has the most views on YouTube, cause it has like – it's over a million right now. And I was like, "Man" – the melody – I wrote the melody out and I sung it first, before I gave it to Billy to sing it. And man, it's just, that's what it was. It was the flow, the rapping, and the melody, which really caught people, which went along with the beat. Cause it's supposed to be one universe within itself. So that's where I figured out melody was the key.
And then when "Clout Cobain" came out, it only proved my point that melody was – that was it. Melody always wins. Because "Clout Cobain" has the biggest – it's the – even the song and the video together made the song big. And that's what all these other rappers and people of my generation were my doing, making their songs big by using melody.
FRANNIE: So that's something that Puffy has talked a lot about, is focusing on melody, particularly for him, and bass lines. But it's kind of like it went out of favor in a weird way, and now it's back. Do you think it's something elemental to music where people are like, "I want people to listen to my music, so I'm going to capture them the way that human beings respond?" Or do you think it's something about the time we're in, that people really want to sing along, want to be a part of a group in that way?
DENZEL CURRY: I mean, I wouldn't say it's the time, because people been singing along to stuff since the '80s, '70s, '60s. Long as they could sing along to it. And with this generation, it's just, all that stuff that's coming out, you don't even have to be a singer. You just harmonize, and people will sing along to it. Probably sing it better than you, but long as they can sing along to it, they got it.
FRANNIE: Yeah. And so with the video, the "Clout Cobain" video, how – to me – so I was in middle school when Nirvana was a big deal and everything.
DENZEL CURRY: Yes.
FRANNIE: Is that – you were not.
DENZEL CURRY: I wasn't born yet.
DENZEL CURRY: He died in '94. I'm born in '95.
FRANNIE: Yeah, so if you don't have a nostalgia for that time, what is your feeling for Kurt Cobain specifically, but also grunge era and the aesthetic too.
DENZEL CURRY: I was listening to – you know who Mia Zapata is?
FRANNIE: I do, yeah.
FRANNIE: So when you were a kid, this is what you were listening to?
DENZEL CURRY: More like a teenager.
DENZEL CURRY: Teenager entering adulthood, that's what I was listening to. Cause I was just exploring music. After Nostalgic I was just exploring music. Because my friend Freebase would go to these places overseas, and he'll come back, play me French rap. Come back, play me English rap, play me grime, play me all this type of stuff. And then when I started going – crossing the United States and stuff like that, and just researching on Wikipedia or whatever, and I ended up finding out about Mia Zapata through the 27 Club thing.
FRANNIE: Whoa. Yeah.
DENZEL CURRY: That's how I found about her, and I was like, "Yo, let me check her out." And then I ended up liking what I was hearing, so that's how I got into all the grunge stuff.
And then I bought a whole bunch of CDs, a whole bunch of CDs, and it was mainly rap. I bought Metallica Ride The Lightning, just because I thought the cover looked cool. I bought that, started listening to that. But I was already into Slayer. I was into Slayer and South Of Heaven. I love that album. "Mandatory Suicide." That type of stuff. I was into –
FRANNIE: What about it appealed to you?
DENZEL CURRY: It was just something I could just wild out to. I mean, c'mon, I grew up listening to Odd Future and stuff like that. So I was really into that "DUHNUHNUHNUHNUH" – especially like Raider Klan, we was all into "DUHNUHNUHNUHNUH." Go the skate park. "DUHNUHNUHNUHNUH." Go the show. "DUHNUHNUHNUHNUH." That's what it was. It was rap, but we was like, "DUHNUHNUHNUHNUH." And then – yeah.
You end up getting tracks – and then I started seeing a resurgence with punk, using the punk element. And at first, I wasn't going to change my hair when – I had single dreads, and I was like, "Man, what if I do this? Do they think I would copy it? Nah, nah, nah. The ain't gon' think that. Let me do that." Until I met André 3000, that's when I was like, "OK. I could do whatever I want."
So then I did that, made "Ultimate," and "Ultimate" was an homage to dancehall, but it sounded like punk. So that's when I figured out they're both on the same spectrum. And then when I heard Bad Brains, I was like – me and the lead vocalist, H.R., we were not too different, because he had dreads. We're both born around almost near the same birthday. He's February 11. I'm February 16. I was like, "What?"
And then he has this chaotic energy, but the way he was singing – and then it was just rapid fire. And I was doing rapid fire stuff, and my shows ended up looking crazy. His shows was looking crazy, and this is old. So it was like, that's how I came in touch with everything from the hardcore punk aspect of things.
FRANNIE: And Bad Brains is still super melodic.
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah.
FRANNIE: But also this thing that happens with grunge and also with Raider Klan is this idea of lo-fi.
DENZEL CURRY: I mean, we all didn't have studios to record in. We all had to record from home. And the whole idea of Blackland was Carol City, and Carol City is still Blackland to this day. Blackland is supposed to represent hell. "Blackland, the city where they try to make it hard for a black man."
And if you look at the tracks on TA13OO and the way they were spelled, you see I spell it in all caps regular, then I put it in all caps with the numbers – and changing the s's to z's. Those are my hieroglyphics, but that was based off my roots in Raider Klan, because I was one of the original members in Raider Klan before I branched out. And Purrp, the way he did Blackland Radio 66.6, he did it the same way. He did basically all the tracks regular-sounding – I mean, regular names. I'm sorry. Yeah, all them regular, and then on the other side he was changing his a's to v's, e's to two x's, o's to one x, and u's are v's.
FRANNIE: So what's the function of doing – putting up both? It's like, making sure people understand what you're saying?
DENZEL CURRY: Yes. So they'll be like, "Oh snap. This is that" – and it brings that sense of nostalgia, what we was talking about. So people who were – who seen the Raider Klan would be like, "Oh! He did that, but he did it this way!" And then you got people that don't know what's happening, so the other people that've been there from beginning know. They like, "Nah. Do your research. He got it from this."
FRANNIE: Can you give people who are new a primer on Raider Klan?
DENZEL CURRY: Raider Klan consisted of Spaceghostpurpp, myself, which is Denzel Curry, but I was going by Denzel Aquarius Killer Curry at the time, Yung Simmie, Key Nyata, Nell, Rell, Dough Dough Da Don, Amber London, Young Renegade, Soldier Mook, Chris Travis. Did I say Xavier Wulf already?
DENZEL CURRY: Oh, Xavier Wulf, but he was going by Ethelwulf at the time. And J-Green. And those were all the people that was part of Raider Klan at this point in time.
FRANNIE: So is people from – it ended up not only being people from South Florida?
DENZEL CURRY: Yes. It didn't be that way, cause Purrp found the outsiders. He found Key. He found Xavier, Chris, and Amber.
DENZEL CURRY: On my end, I found Simmie, alongside with Renegade. Renegade was one of the original members too, but me and him told Simmie about it, and Simmie joined. I found Nell, and Nell joined, and I found Rell, and Rell joined. And my brother came back from college, and he ended up joining with me to keep me out of trouble.
FRANNIE: So what did the group do? How did it help you?
DENZEL CURRY: Man, it was like – it was like a cult following. It was so weird, cause we were just having fun with making the music, not knowing the impact that we had on all these kids all across the world.
Then we started to notice it when, first off, the A$AP/Raider Klan beef between Spaceghostpurrp and A$AP Rocky. When that happened, it was really going down. And then we had people coming at us like, "F Raider Klan." Then you had people that was defending us like, "F A$AP." Then you had kids wearing Raider gear. We just started kids wearing Raider gear out of nowhere.
And we was the first kids to try to bombard the industry. We was the first ones like, "F the radio." We was like, "Fuck the radio." We didn't care about it. We –
FRANNIE: So this was early 2010s? What are we talking like?
DENZEL CURRY: No, 2011.
FRANNIE: Yeah. That's what I meant. My bad.
DENZEL CURRY: 2011 is what set it off, because Purrp created Blackland Radio 66.6 after Ladarius Frazer aka Jitt, he got murdered at Carol City Park, which was down the street from my house, and down the street from Spaceghostpurrp's house.
FRANNIE: That's awful.
DENZEL CURRY: That's what set it off. And Purrp created Blackland Radio 66.6, and it was a mixture of all things. You'll hear heavy Three 6 Mafia influence, but he implemented his own sounds. It wasn't just straight up Three 6 Mafia-sounding beats. Only a couple Three 6 Mafia beats here and there, which was one, which was "Pheel Tha Phonk," which was "Late Night Tip," but he sped it up to make it sound different.
And he started doing all these songs, including stuff that was boom-bap, like, "Rath Of A Raider, "Legend Of The East Pyramyds." And then you had stuff that was reminiscent of the Three 6 Mafia era, like "Suck A N**** Dick For 2011." He has a song called "Fuck Taylor Gang" on it, which is one of my favorite songs. Even though I fuck with Wiz Khalifa and shit, that's one of my favorite songs.
And he had a song called "Don't Get Yah Head Bust" where he sampled – a lot of Mortal Kombat samples was on this tape. He sampled the old school Mortal Kombat game, like the – Mortal Kombat 1. He sampled those beats and had a lot of those Mortal Kombat sounds like, "Finish him!" and "Superb," "Excellent, "Fatality." All those was all on this one tape.
FRANNIE: There's a – this is a super easy and kind of lame comparison but there's a little bit 36 Chambers-thing happening there.
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah, but that's what Raider Klan was. Raider Klan was a mixture between Wu Tang Clan and Three 6 Mafia.
FRANNIE: Right. Which is, again, a lot of things that happened before you were born.
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah.
FRANNIE: I mean, to me that's just interesting, the way that things kind of – that time collapses on the Internet.
ALI: It does. It goes in cycles. We're doing newer things, but we're also doing things that's so similar. Like, when you were just talking about not caring about the radio, our mission was the same. We just wanted to make the illest, the craziest music ever heard. And –
FRANNIE: And you thought about merch right away too.
FRANNIE: I mean, you thought about –
ALI: We didn't think about merch, but we thought about it being more of a business than I think what we had seen up until that point – with Tribe and Native Tongues and just looking at groups like Earth, Wind & Fire and the Beatles, how they set up their own record company. And so we just looked at stuff like that, and we were like, "Yo. We're trying to take it to that level."
But also at that time, radio and hip-hop was just kind of opening up together. So our focus wasn't so much on radio from I think where you guys are. It was more just like, we just want to make a heavy impact, as big as we can, just being ourselves and not copying anybody else.
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah. With Raider Klan, all of us is just ourselves, but everybody was their own entity, I thought. Everybody could stand on their own, but when Raider Klan broke up, it really showed who could really stand on their own two feet and who couldn't.
FRANNIE: Yeah. That's what happens.
DENZEL CURRY: Luckily I was one of those people who could stand on their own.
ALI: Well, you put a lot into your music, and there's just a lot of deepness into it. Like I said before, it just comes across as extremely passionate, and there are a lot of passionate artists, people talking about drugs in a passionate way, but you present the opposite, I guess, of what everyone else is talking about. It doesn't sound intentional. It just sounds like you being more conscious with –
FRANNIE: Like himself.
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah, I'm just self-aware. That's the thing. Just aware of just everything.
ALI: Yeah. It sounds like you're self-aware but also aware of your community, the people around you.
FRANNIE: Yeah, like your effect on people, right?
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah.
ALI: Well, just in relations, how we all are connected. People try to disconnect us, but we're all connected.
FRANNIE: I imagine that would make it hard for you to be in a group.
DENZEL CURRY: Nah. Cause even in my group, I was still getting slept on, until "Threats" became the biggest song out Raider Klan at the time.
FRANNIE: So you would've been – this is not about – I'm not talking about Raider Klan, but just sort of theoretically, you kind of need to be solo. You are the kind of artist –
DENZEL CURRY: I'm an Aquarius, bro. I'm an individual.
FRANNIE: That's funny.
ALI: This is day two with Aquarius. We should just keep it going.
FRANNIE: I know! I know.
DENZEL CURRY: Huh?
FRANNIE: We talked to Big Boi yesterday.
ALI: We talked to Big Boi from Outkast yesterday. I'm like, "Oh, this is Aquarius week right now."
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah. What was he talking about?
FRANNIE: Oh man, a lot of stuff.
ALI: Yeah, a lot of stuff.
FRANNIE: Owning your publishing, making sure all your intellectual property is protected, being self-aware enough to kind of – to get in a healthy relationship early and stay there.
DENZEL CURRY: That's real. That's real.
FRANNIE: And also the pressures of giant success hitting when you're like 19, how you sort of – everything looks really crazy. How do you make it make sense?-kind of thing.
ALI: And also, for the length of time that he's been in the music business, still as a solo artist, to remain fresh, have his own identity, not go back to a simple formula, something that was already done and achieved.
FRANNIE: Like, if you know what works, don't do it again.
ALI: Yeah, or just make the same song. You're going have a formula, but not making the exact same song. And so, yeah.
FRANNIE: Do you see yourself in this business for 20 years?
DENZEL CURRY: Longer than that. Honestly. Twenty, probably 30 years. But I probably might stop at 40.
FRANNIE: That's – you will have given enough by then. God damn.
ALI: You say that. Looking at the face 48 right now.
DENZEL CURRY: Oh, man.
ALI: I remember I thought the same thing. I was like, "Yeah, I'm probably going to stop when I'm like 40."
DENZEL CURRY: You look like 30-something though.
FRANNIE: Yeah, that's what being sober your whole life does for you.
ALI: And then it just turns into something, but that's life! It unfolds, and you take all the blessings the creator gives you, and you hope to do the right things with the air that you're given every day. And you have some sort of directive as to – or not directive, but some sort of path, where you ideally want things to go, and then you walk that path, and then a new path unfolds and you opt to go that way or go a different way.
But I can tell, just where you are, what you're presenting right now, it's energetic, and it's honest. It's so sincere and honest, and for me, that – when you make music from that perspective of just being, one, honest and really vulnerable, and not "Me, me, me, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I," which the top rapper right now, all his records says that. And when you make records that don't have that kind of a connotation – although he's the opposite of the point I'm trying to make, cause he is at the top. But when you do that, you last longer with the people, and what you do impresses upon the people in a more real, loving, embraceful way in the relationship with your fans. Goes longer and you're giving, and they're giving back to you.
DENZEL CURRY: Right.
ALI: For a long time.
DENZEL CURRY: And the only thing I gotta do is keep doing me and not betray they trust.
FRANNIE: That was another thing Big was talking about, was how much he loves meeting his fans, doing meet and greets and seeing people.
DENZEL CURRY: Me, I'm very weird when it comes down to meeting my fans, cause I don't know. It's just so much. It's too much, at the same time. But if I just meet my fan randomly on the street, yeah, I'm going to have a long conversation with him, cause it's just one. But if it's like 15 people, I can't do it. It's – I get weird when it's like 15 to 20 people all at the same time.
ALI: Well, yeah, it's –
FRANNIE: Anybody would.
ALI: It's a lot to be pulled, all your limbs, and you're like, "Wait a minute." So that's healthy, man.
FRANNIE: Yeah. How does it feel to be on stage when people are clambering for you, and also being like, "Give me what I want!" You know what I mean? Like, "Give me 'Threats.'" Or, "Give me" –
DENZEL CURRY: I be like, "Shut the fuck up. Don't tell me how to do my god damn job." Period. I don't give a fuck who you is. I'ma tell you –
FRANNIE: So you don't feel pressured that way, when you're –
DENZEL CURRY: Nope. Cause I know what I'm going to play, and if you ask me – you request something, what I look like? A jukebox? I ain't no god damn jukebox, man. You need to get somewhere with that bullshit. I'ma keep it so –
FRANNIE: Do you enjoy performing though?
DENZEL CURRY: I enjoy performing. I enjoy engaging with the fans, but when they start demanding, I'm like, "Bruh, I will smack the shit out of you." I just can't, because my job.
FRANNIE: So you control the stage?
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah, I control the stage. Don't tell me how to do my job. That's like me telling you how to make a burger. If you work at Burger King for like 20 years. I can't tell you how to do that shit. "I demand!" No. I want it specifically like this. If you give it to me, cool. But I'm not going to demand you to do it a certain way. "Oh, flip the burger this way. Do it this way." Nah. Mm-mm. Don't tell me what to do.
ALI: What do you think is the biggest misunderstanding about you?
DENZEL CURRY: I always say this: people just think I'm just angry all the time, and I yell.
I mean, I yell now, but I don't yell on everything I do. Cause one thing – they be like, "I don't listen to Denzel." "Why?" "All he does is yell on his records." OK, first of all, where were you past few years? Where were you since 2013? Cause I remember specifically on Nostalgia 64, I didn't yell not one bit on that. Like, that was pretty much all lyrical shit. 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms, I only yelled on "Ultimate." So you can't say that either. Maybe on Imperial, where you heard the aggressiveness out of me, and it kind of sounded like yelling, possibly. "Uh Huh," yeah, that was me yelling.
But everything else wasn't me yelling. It's just, you were sleep. That's the main thing. People just say, "All he does is yell." No, you only heard one song where it's just me yelling and just think that's what I do all the time, until I made this album. Now everybody's like, "Oh, he's not yelling." I don't yell all the time on my records. Idiot. You know?
FRANNIE: I just don't actually understand what is the problem with yelling anyway.
DENZEL CURRY: If you don't like yelling, go to another song!
FRANNIE: Or listen –
DENZEL CURRY: I'm pretty sure I'm not gon' yell on that one.
FRANNIE: Yeah. Or you can listen to some quieter music. That's fine. It's not categorically problematic.
ALI: Well, I can give you my side of it.
ALI: For an example, for an example, I'm not saying this about you. It's just to your point. Sometimes when I go to the mosque, and you getting that sermon, there are certain imams that are cool and the content is very heavy and thought-provoking and it requires –
DENZEL CURRY: You to yell?
ALI: – your senses. No. Not to yell. For it to be presented that way.
Sometimes you have some imams where they are yelling the same point, and I sit there, and I'm like – I can't – you guys can't, who is listening to this, can't see my expression. But I'm just like, "Whoa. This is way too much for me right now. I know the words you're saying and the importance of it, but you think if you said that in a different way it may fall on me so that I'm not getting that emotion, that heightened state that you happen to be in right now."
But sometimes you gotta yell. Sometimes the sky's gotta be thunderous to make you look up and go, "Oh shoot. What's going on? Something I'm not thinking about. I need to pay attention to it."
DENZEL CURRY: Mhmm. But with this record, certain tracks, I didn't have to yell to get my point across.
ALI: Yeah, exactly.
DENZEL CURRY: Imperial, I was just angry and emotional, that's why it came out like that. But certain songs I didn't have to yell to get my point across. Same with "Sirens," same with "Clout Cobain." Especially with "Clout Cobain." I really didn't have to yell to get my point across.
ALI: I think you made people who had that misconception about you, I would think, at this point was like, "Oh, we get it. We understand another layer of him."
What does love look like to you?
DENZEL CURRY: Love, man. I don't know, man. That's a hard question. What does love look like to me? Love isn't a physical thing. Love is everything pretty much, just from the biggest things to the littlest things. That's what I see what love is. Like, when it comes down to that, it's such a hard question. But I know – it's just the things that you do for someone, and it's not on a materialistic thing. It's just that you really care for somebody.
Say, for instance, my girl, when she was sick, and her parents met me for the first time, when she was in the hospital, I thugged it out. I thugged it out. I slept on the floor in the hospital for like two days straight. No shower, didn't brush my teeth, nothing. Just to make sure she was straight, make sure I get her food, make sure I was in bed with her, make sure I showed the doctors I wasn't going nowhere. Just the things that you'll go out your way to do for someone, show that you care or if you love them that way.
DENZEL CURRY: That's what I feel. That's where I see what love is. It's not nothing to get back. If you love that person, you won't ask for anything back in return.
ALI: I asked that question, because before meeting you today, oddly, someone sent me – well, maybe it's not oddly. Maybe it's serendipitous. Someone sent me a link to Louis Armstrong's "What A Beautiful Word," and I've heard that song a million times. But today, just in thinking about meeting you, I was just listening to it, and in this particular version, I had never him speak before, and this was like 1970-something recording, a live recording of it. And I never heard him talk about the reason why he sings the song, and what it really meant for him. And it made me think. I mean, he mentions even love in the song.
And then after that I was listening to your music, and I was like, "Wow. This is, to me, almost saying the same thing." Way differently, but just in taking a moment to observe the things that are greater to you and the things that you connect you. And I hear that in your music, just in – I think some of it comes across as almost a pain, aggravation, but in a hope of those who are – not a hope. Those are who feeling outcasted, outsiders, there's so much more in value to that person that you're just discounting. And if you had a moment to really just peak in, you would see that love.
And that's what I got from your music now. I don't know if that's what you're intent was.
DENZEL CURRY: My thing is just to express something. If I'm gon' make something fun, I'ma put a message into it. If I'm gon' make something real, I'ma put a message into it. If I'm gon' make something about myself, I'm gon' put a message into it. Cause you could learn from my music, if you decode it and break it down. But people get my lyrics wrong, and you gotta hear it from me.
But my main thing is expressing myself. Because somebody's going through the same thing I'm going through, and I don't even know them!
ALI: Yeah. That's what I meant. I hear that kick-ass shit too, but –
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah. No, no.
ALI: Like, the don't fuck with me, I hear that aspect, but that's not what I get. I don't focus – I have not focussed on that part of it, because that part is clear. And I think you're saying so much more than that. That's just like a warning: understand if you don't understand. But these other areas, it feels you're talking to people who may be isolated, and they don't have that person to really – or group of people – to really understand their situation and take the time to really look at them.
DENZEL CURRY: But even what you're saying, people that don't understand and take the time to look at them, when creating this album, I was always trying to get everybody to understand me. "Understand me! Understand me!" Like, trying to force them to understand me. But I realized that's force feeding them, to try to understand you, and then I'm just like, "I gotta understand that not everybody's going to understand." And the ones that do is the people I accept.
Cause eventually somebody who doesn't understand is going to understand eventually, even if it's not this record. It's going to be the next one.
ALI: What are you looking forward to with your next record?
DENZEL CURRY: Mast – well, there's no such thing as mastering anything, but then again, just being really good at all genres. I'm going to do all genres, every single last one of them. Rock, punk – well, pretty much the same thing. Pretty much every genre that you could think, every genre. Neo-soul, jazz, I'ma do everything, every single thing. Because I feel like I got a promise I gotta keep, for a friend. So –
FRANNIE: What's the promise?
DENZEL CURRY: The promise is I'ma make sure I get bigger than that person. But that's my promise to him.
FRANNIE: Is it X?
DENZEL CURRY: It is X. Cause I told him, "You inspire me to get bigger than you." And he was like, "Long as it's a friendly competition, I'm with it. Cause that would inspire me to get bigger than you, and it will keep it going until we both are super huge." But I'm gon' keep my promise, and I'm gon' do every genre, even though I can't master anything, because nobody's – you could get really good at something, but you can't master it. So I'm always going to be forever a student to everything, and that's my thing.
And I'm gon' make sure I get everybody who I said – how me and X was gon' put this shit together and make sure everybody gon' be straight, I'ma make sure of that. Because I know I'm a leader.
FRANNIE: What about Caribbean music?
DENZEL CURRY: My people's from the Bahamas. I can nail that. Don't you hear my flows?
FRANNIE: That's what I'm talking about.
DENZEL CURRY: I already got that shit down pat.
FRANNIE: I want to hear more of it, selfishly. I don't know. No pressure.
ALI: Any of your people you want to acknowledge that helped get you to where you are, before we close out?
DENZEL CURRY: Mark Maturah, Rees – well, I'm gon' say Mauricio Escobar. I would say the whole Raider Klan. I would shout out to them. Spaceghostpurrp for being the first one out the hood to believe in me, and he was bigger than me and not even the locals was fucking with me. Shout out to Purrp, and shout out to my brother Soldier Mook for keeping my – out of trouble.
And shout out to my father. Shout out to my father for being there and taking me to these shows, picking me up, making sure I didn't break curfew, almost kicking my ass when I did break curfew. But still –
FRANNIE: What shows did he take you to?
DENZEL CURRY: Huh?
FRANNIE: What shows did he take you to?
DENZEL CURRY: My early shows, when I wasn't getting paid shit, I just wanted to perform.
FRANNIE: Your dad would drop you off, and you would perform, and then he would pick you up later?
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah.
FRANNIE: That's amazing.
DENZEL CURRY: Shout out to my dad for coming to my first Cali show, for really being there and – yeah.
FRANNIE: You said somewhere – I don't remember where – that you're going to take your brother with you on the road to sell merch?
DENZEL CURRY: Yup! He just – actually, my brother – my manager called me; my brother was in the car, and he was like, "Yeah, we just went to go fill out his passport information."
DENZEL CURRY: So yeah, I'm getting my brother out the hood, cause last time I was in Miami, bruh, they set a car on fire right down the street from my dad's house.
ALI: What is going on, man?
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah, it was crazy as shit.
FRANNIE: I mean, this is an aspect of the entourage, the idea of entourage –
DENZEL CURRY: I don't need a –
FRANNIE: – that people miss all the time. But yeah, this has been true since the '80s, that people would bring people on the road with them, because there are these jobs that need to be done, but it's also a way to get people out of somewhere that might be dangerous for them and be making some money and get to travel, get to travel the world.
DENZEL CURRY: Yeah, this was going to be my brother's first time traveling the whole United States and Canada, so that's a good thing. And it's going to widen – broaden his horizon.
ALI: Do you feel – or what do you feel can help change the environment in your neighborhood for the better?
DENZEL CURRY: I don't know. It takes one, and it takes a unit for people to be like, "We ain't gon' allow this to go down." But people let it go down because they're scared. So you know, that's how I do – it gotta be a community thing and like, "Yo, we're doing this for the kids to grow up safe." Stuff like that. Cause cops ain't really going to do nothing.
Schools, education, they don't teach you – they teach you stuff that you really don't need, minus reading, writing, and math. That's all you really need. And physical education. But other than that, they don't really teach you about credit, debt, catering to you as a person who wants to do music, martial arts, or whatever, whatever the case may be.
I think school should be that, what you're interested in, what can you do for the community, what you can do for this. And that way you can have great leaders, and then you'll have an art program. You'll have a mentoring program. You can have a program where it's dealing with combat. You can have a program showing you how to survive in your community or help your community. Architecture, stuff like that.
We need schools like that instead of just schools that teach you the basic necessities just so you could go to college and be in debt later – and not find a job. Cause at least if you have a school of what I just said, you'll have those experiences. That way you could go into the working field, or work for yourself. They don't show you how to work for yourself. They show you how to work for somebody else.
ALI: Yeah. Well said.
FRANNIE: Yeah, thank you for coming here. Thank you for being so open and so direct and just like everything – sharing what you know is so useful.
DENZEL CURRY: Thank you.
ALI: Hope you come back when you drop that – when you're ready to release the next wave.
DENZEL CURRY: I already got my next wave. I already thought about two tapes I'ma do. But I'll tell you that after the thing. I can't – cause I already got the names for them and all, so.
ALI: Cool. Thank you.
FRANNIE: Yeah, thanks.
DENZEL CURRY: You're welcome.
ALI: Alright, cool.