DENZEL Curry has found his own version of Dragon Ball Z’s infamous Snake Way.
It’s a long, narrow, winding path, located just above the hell of social media, and only he knows the destination.
“I’m an actual Super Saiyan in real life,” he assures me, referencing the anime cult classic. “You’re gonna see that when I start coming out and going on tours.”
Since the release of his first album, 2013’s Nostalgic 64, Curry has been evolving his combative, devoid-of-all-cliche wordplay for him to fight the world with.
With chaotic charm, his voice is clean, often sharing impactful moments of his South Florida life, and never compromising on the experiences that come from it.
“Being sober is damn near like you’re an alien if you tell somebody you’re straight edge … That’s the society we live in.”
He’s got a frank but positive sense of humour about him; a trait that really shines through as he chats down the phone to me, waiting for a soundcheck in Detroit.
“It’s not the normal thing to do, being sober,” he says of the clean-living lifestyle he adopted in 2017. “Like being sober is damn near like you’re an alien if you tell somebody you’re straight edge. That’s what it is though, that’s the society we live in.”
It’s this unclouded vision that came to life on TA13OO (“Taboo”), Curry’s third album, which was purposefully released in three parts: the light, the grey, and the dark side.
“Writing definitely did get hard because it’s not just affecting me, it affects a lot of people that I know,” he explains. “I wanted to be able to share that, like we all have the same pain… but if no one talks about it, how would we know?”
At 23, Curry – passionate, intelligent, and prone to absolute attention to detail – understands the importance of pain and the measures we go to cope with it, however brutal or cartoonish.
With this sentiment in mind, it was only natural when Curry put the spotlight on ZXLTRXN (“Zeltron”), a culmination of personas he’s built around his art.
“ZXLTRXN is the formulation of all my personalities, which is Aquarius’Killa, Raven Miyagi and Denny Cascade, all into Denzel Curry together. You can see all those sides of me on the project.”
Clout Vs Respect
‘CLOUT COBAIN | CLOUT CO13A1N’ was our first real look into your project, TA13OO. What inspired it?
For the music video for ‘CLOUT COBAIN | CLOUT CO13A1N’, the idea started off as a joke. I was with my manager Mark at a festival and he turns to me and says, “Man, every Soundcloud rapper treats this like a Clout Circus.” At the time, we’d bust out laughin’. Then when we were coming up with ideas for the music video and Mark asked, “Why don’t we just do a Clout Circus?”
In ‘CLOUT COBAIN | CLOUT CO13A1N’ all I did was just hold a mirror up to the world so they could see it. It wasn’t me makin’ fun of nobody. The reason why the video is creepy is because it was the truth — I just held a mirror up. That was it.
How do you define clout?
Clout is pretty much status and everyone wants status. Everybody is going to do whatever it takes to get that status. Clout is a killer, it’s a real killer. N***as will kill their homeboy for clout, straight up. And it’s a problem, everybody clout hungry, doing some stupid shit for clout. They want you to be animals, it’s stupid as fuck.
I feel like it all comes back to integrity, too.
Yeah, that shit gone because everybody gonna look at you as a joke and I refuse to sell myself short. People were sleeping [on my work] so they only heard ’Ultimate’ and they think that was the end. Now since ‘CLOUT COBAIN | CLOUT CO13A1N’ came out, everybody’s like, “Oh shit!” Now I’m the greatest of all time, all of a sudden. That’s what it took … only now do people know how serious I be.
Is respect important to you?
Respect is definitely the most important thing. I just want to be respected. I feel like a lot of people disrespect me and people are gonna disrespect me along the way, but at the same time, I know there’s gonna be people that ride for me. You don’t have to listen to my music, you don’t have to like my art, but you will respect me as a person.
The Light, The Grey & The Dark Side
I was in a dark place before I wrote TA13OO. When I first started making the project, I was mad about a lot of things and distracted … that wasn’t helping me evolve. Having certain people in my life, being isolated, having that realisation – it made me stop doing certain things and allowed my life to get to the great part.
What do you want people to embrace on the different sides?
I just want everybody to embrace the message, embrace the art, embrace the whole aura and atmosphere of the whole album. I just want people to embrace it and let it become part of their own realisation. And if not, maybe it’ll take a few years, but they’ll understand, eventually. I just want them to understand what I crafted and the influence of it.
What influenced the writing on TA13OO?
Just seeing my peers go hard and shit, just knowing what I’m capable of and I couldn’t be left out. I always felt like an outcast, even when I was comin’ up. I just felt like nobody respected or understood my vision or understood what I could do and what I’m capable of. Now this is helping everybody understand.
ZXLTRXN: The Anti-Hero
I always had this idea of doing the album in reverse. When I was doing the album, it went from light to dark, but in reality my life was going from dark to light at the same time. I was just rebuilding myself and refining the new Denzel Curry.
TA13OO not only sees you refine the new Denzel, but also ZXLTRXN.
ZXLTRXN is the most versatile – he’s the greatest entity of all time, he’s the best performer of all time. ZXLTRXN is the best rapper of all time. ZXLTRXN is the best, period. He is the most versatile person I ever created in my life. Certain things had to happen for me to create ZXLTRXN… he was the personality that was there when Denzel wasn’t handling his business the correct way.
Is ZXLTRXN paranoid?
Yeah, of course. ZXLTRXN is paranoid. Why wouldn’t he be? ZXLTRXN is still Denzel and Denzel was afraid of talking about things. I feel like I created ZXLTRXN because everybody wanted to be on first name basis with me but not everybody deserved to know me by first name. I just feel like Z is the perfect bridge for everyone.
I want people to perceive ZXLTRXN as an anti-hero because I still wanna help people. But at the same time, Z doesn’t want to be looked at like a Superman or some shit, ‘cause Superman sucks ass and Batman is kinda gangster, you feel me? I wanna be looked at like an anti-hero, saving people but not though the traditions of a hero.
Has being an anti-hero always been important to you?
I don’t know … it just got to me finding the balance between good and evil. I was 22 when I went through this duality stage, and by the time I hit 23 I knew who I wanted to be. In this duality, I could do good and I could do bad, but I could do bad to bad people and be good, you know?
The Best Revenge
Success is the best revenge – you’re not killin’ anyone. Success is always going to be the best revenge ‘cause the people that was shitting on you when you wasn’t shit, getting to be successful is how you get them back. You continue to rise after that.
Like the law of attraction.
Exactly. Whatever I throw out into the universe, it’s exactly what I’m gonna get back. If I throw out something negative, I’m gonna get negative shit back, but if I throw out something positive and say I’m gonna do this and do that, and work on manifesting everything I want to do and want to be, it will happen. I believe in the law of attraction, full-speed.
How do you stay focused on that?
I surround myself with less distractions, you know? I try not get distracted and try my best to stay focused on the task at hand. Pain is power. Utilise that pain. That’s why I embrace that side of me. You don’t got no pain, you don’t got no power. That’s how I see it.
And what advice would you give those experiencing pain?
I just want them to embrace it and always be yourself. Always be you. Always be true to yourself and you’ll make it. Just work everyday. Try your best to evolve.