Album Review: “TA13OO”
Every so often, an album comes along that recalibrates expectations for an artist. Carol City, Fla., native Denzel Curry has always worn his Soundcloud roots on his sleeves, communicating at once the good and the bad of the genre he helped popularize.
But “TA13OO,” Curry’s third studio effort, is grand in its vision and ambition, helping the young star shed the baggage of his divisive beginnings with an evolved, mature sound.
The title track opens the album and immediately makes the listener to cast aside their expectations and grapple with the new Curry. “Welcome to the darker side of ‘TA13OO’/All I’ve got is permanent scars and tattoos,” sings Curry, in a soulful voice over a moody and introspective beat. It’s one of the best intro tracks of the year, an ambitious blend of hallmark aggressive rapping and smoothed out, heartfelt vocals to tell the story of bridging an emotional gap between two damaged people.
The introduction provided a stark contrast to Curry’s previous work and symbolizes the lofty aspirations of the project, continued by the equally smooth second track, “BLACK BALLOONS.” Curry enlists the help of vocalist Twelve’len for a catchy and enjoyable chorus while picking up the talents of rapper Goldlink to round out the track.
The third track, “CASH MANIAC,” rips the listener out of the somber mood of the first two tracks. I felt more like I was listening to a West Coast summer album, a la Kamaiyah or 03 Greedo, and the slightly disjointed nature speaks to one of the first obvious signs of wanting execution on “TA13OO.”
The album is supposed to be broken into three sections, light, gray and dark, but I did not find each section to be vastly different from the other. I mean, is the opening track not one of the darkest tales of suffering on this record?
And then there’s the fourth track, “SUMO,” an infectious Soundcloud banger that longtime fans will rejoice in. Curry has no problem showcasing his versatile rap talents over the opening tracks, and “SUMO” is no different as he adds in clever, catchy, caption-worthy lines like: “Givin’ out bricks like Shaq at the free throw.”
The following track, “SUPER SAIYAN SUPERMAN,” continues the sound set by “SUMO.” It’s not a bad track, but it just isn’t memorable and again shows sloppy execution on an admittedly grand concept.
I was not impressed again until “SIRENS,” a track featuring the young and talented rapper J.I.D and vocalist Billie Eilish. The chorus is soft and beautiful, while J.I.D channels his inner Kendrick Lamar to deliver a conscious, powerful verse. Curry’s verse centers on government-minority relationships in this country, lambasting the government for forcing minorities to only feel comfortable associating with each other.
“CLOUT COBAIN” follows and continues with an infectious, catchy hook that brings the listener into Curry’s dark mood as he points to the desensitized nature of kids today. “I stay low so my demons don’t acknowledge me/When I go, I know death don’t do apologies,” shows how Curry stays away from temptation and tries valiantly to stay firmly in reality, evidenced by his blunt but honest understanding of the finality of death.
“TA1300” features the versatile Curry at his hardcore singing, aggressive rapping best — while also making clear what needs to be improved. “TA1300” is grand in its vision, and Curry should be applauded for his effort and intention here, not because he always gets it right, but because he was able to transcend the pitfalls of the genre where he got his start and actually create something with its own unique merits.
Curry didn’t knock “TA13OO” out of the park, but he did show amazing and exciting growth to go with his precocious and varying talents. With “TA13OO” Curry didn’t give us a masterpiece. He did, however, at least make a promise that he’s capable of one.