By Mike Deng (‘19)
TA13OO is Denzel Curry’s newest studio album. It is divided into 3 distinct acts that are entitled “Light”, “Grey” and “Dark”. The album is meant to be divided into three distinct parts, similar to Drake and his decision to have 2 acts on Scorpion.
As the album progresses, the listening experience becomes more intense, ramping up until the last act. In the album, Denzel is not afraid to talk about taboo issues ranging from modern-day politics to the current opioid problems in mainstream hip-hop.
ACT 1: Light
Denzel opens up with the concept of black balloons in his song “13LACK 13ALLOONS”, where he remarks how “black balloons, [are] over [his] head”, and how they are omnipresent in his life. He uses this song to epitomize pain, writing how “soon black balloons pop...let it be the day the pain stop”. It shows how he switches it up from his initial album Imperial, and chooses to instead focus on the beat, and synths in addition to the background music. He tells us parts of his life, and juxtaposes it to the black balloons. As the album progresses, the black balloons show how his pain intensifies, much like the acts.
In another one of his songs in part one, “ZUMO”, Denzel talks about how he has made a bunch of money in the rap game. He remarks how “pockets too big, they sumo”. He reflected how he has come a long way and “got it on [his] own with no help” and “got a bag then invested in [himself]”. To contextualize this, Denzel Curry has come a long way coming from 2016’s XXL Freshmen List. (XXL is a magazine that features the top emerging hip-hop artists of the year in a freestyle battle.) It shows how he is not eclipsed by fame, but keeps making money, on his own accord. In one of the last songs he finishes the act off with how he “may be overlooked, but” he’s “never underpaid”, cementing his belief on how he makes cash, and does not have to worry about it.
ACT 2: Grey
In Act 2, Curry switches it up (literally) with the song “ZWITCH IT UP”, and talks about how people don’t know him. He talks about how his new fame was accompanied by new people, oftentimes who are just influenced by fame, more or less clout chasers, in modern terms. He refers to how “everybody wanna ride waves...and jump when the ship don’t sail” referencing how people are really motivated by self-interest.
They only care about hyped up projects, or musicians, but do not care when the hype is not there. TA13OO is a good example of this. It is heralded as album of the year by some hip-hop fans, but there are many bandwagon fans who are listening just because they heard “CLOUT COBAIN”, (the most popular song on the album). As a result, this mentality leads Denzel to note that “they only know Denzel Curry...but they don’t know Denzel” meaning that they only know the surface-level songs meant to cater to people as happy-radio friendly songs. It serves to commentate about society and fake friends and fans and how they are toxic to Denzel. Little does the audience know that Act 2 dives into the deeper emotions of Denzel Curry.
Following the same theme, “MAD 1 GOT IT”, talks about how he’s on the come up. He talks about how fame has resulted in envy from loved ones, and how they “really gonna hate when they can’t destroy you...then expect the royal treatment.” As a result, he reflects these words while reflective of other people ends up hurting him, since it’s tearing him down from the inside. In the later lyrics, he remarks about how he has to “wear this mask every day”, referring to how he has to pretend it’s all right, like his songs in Act 1 of TA13OO.
At the end of the day, while Curry rose his fame, his friends were quick to leave him (in terms of loyalty). It’s a bit of a trite topic, in terms of rap, but he is able to eloquently rap about the topic. He leaves no room for the audience to question whether he ripped off someone else, because he’s able to tell it as it is, by himself.
On track “Z1RENZ”, he voices his opinion on America and talks about police brutality, and the media response towards it. In the beginning of the song, he notes how biased the media is stating “state of mind, brain is minimized...put me on the news, only criticize”. It shows how the mainstream media is often commentating on the negative. Curry says the news finds no room for positive media.
He additionally talks about CNN, riffing “We livin’ in colonies, CNN sit-comedies...Monstrosity run rampant all throughout United States...Talkin’ about “let’s make a fort”...Talkin’ about “let’s make it great””. He satirizes CNN and Trump, noting how it is like a sitcom, and talking down on Trump and his policy of making a wall. In the end, sounds of sirens play to represent justice in the United States.
When the sirens sound and when all these pressing issues are brought up to the surface, he will stand his ground - and hopes the listener will, too.
In his most popular track, “CLOUT CO13AIN”, Denzel talks about the concept of “clout” or popularity or influence and how toxic “clout chasing” is in this day and age and trying to appease his fans. His pre-chorus is “I just wanna feel myself, you want me to kill myself.” To dive deeper into this, it’s both in the physical and metaphorical sense.
Curry wants to be proud of the content he produces, but he also acknowledges fake fans, and overwhelmingly demanding fans as previous tracks have talked about. He doesn’t want to overwhelm himself, and end up self-medicating on pills, alcohol, and other negative remedies. He wants to remain pure, despite the medium to which hip-hop is nowadays, of chasing the newest trends, and “riding waves”.
This is also the most popular music video from Curry’s album, and it depicts Curry in the middle of a circus-ring, presenting for the ringleader, who is meant to be the record label. In the video, there’s also an ignorant crowd, who is just amused by the antics of Curry, in the video, who is making a scene all for the clout. In the end, Curry pulls out a gun, and the crowd goes wild. But in the end, Curry kills himself, in the video, showing how some artists choose to take their lives (or other cases self medicate to extremes).
ACT 3: Dark
Leaving off from Act 2, Curry talks about the opioid epidemic affecting modern day hip-hop on the track “THE BLACKEST BALLOON”. On his second verse he references to how “everybody and they mama tweakin’ on that Xan”. He references to how commonplace these opioids are. In a few lyrics he references how nothing has “changed since Lil Peep died”, a new age artist, who died of overdosing on fentanyl-laced Xanax. While this sparked a huge discussion within the community about the issue, there is still hip-hop glorifying it, as it ties in with partying and the overall rapper lifestyle.
Overall, TA13OO provides a brilliant dive into the deeper taboo problems afflicting the hip-hop community in the modern day. The songs provide a lot of replay value, and commentates on issues prevalent to today’s youth. Curry is not afraid to voice his opinion on these issues, on his platform. It is definitely a great offshoot from Imperial, his previous album, in which he keeps it more contained. In TA13OO, Curry is not afraid to show himself, and go beyond surface level and that, in the end, truly displays the hallmark of Denzel Curry.