The RX is Uproxx Music’s stamp of approval for the best albums, songs, and music stories throughout the year. Inclusion in this category is the highest distinction we can bestow, and signals the most important music being released throughout the year. The RX is the music you need, right now.
If 2018 was the year of important big name albums, 2019 has been the opportunity for rappers to make small scale, not personal project that have nonetheless eclipsed their predecessors in urgency and impact. Where event albums like Drake’s Scorpion or Nicki Minaj’s Queen came and went, this new breed of nostalgic, unapologetically insular albums with a focus on regional appeal have changed the face of rap superstardom.
Beginning in November with Vince Staples’ ode to Long Beach summers, FM!, and continuing through to just a few weeks ago with Megan Thee Stallion’s Houston anthem, Fever, deeply personal, autobiographical, hyper-specific albums are proving that their recipe can be a formula for success as well. Now, Denzel Curry joins their ranks with his own audio tour of his Carol City stomping grounds, Zuu.
Perhaps best known for helping kickstart the Soundcloud wave alongside beatmaking surface-to-air missile Ronnie J, Denzel got his start years earlier as part of Raider Klan, the internet-bred band of sonic subversives whose throwback looks masked a futuristic approach to beats and rhymes. As the most widely recognizable surviving member of the group, Curry became something of a vanguard for the speaker-smashing, avant-garde, punk-rap dadaism that symbolizes all things South Florida.
Of course, while many of his peers — Kodak Black, Lil Pump, Ski Mask, XXXTentacion — seemed content to simply churn out their two-minute tracks and dabble (heavily) in prescription pills and cough syrup, while some are even torpedoing their own careers with their off-the-mic antics, Denzel always seems to have more on his mind. His most recent album, 2018’s Ta13boo, featured his most earnest, artsy ruminations on politics, social concerns, and emotional maturation yet. It was dense, heady, noisy, and at times far more polished-sounding than it had any right to be, but the whole thing came across a little too try-hard from the overly complicated rollout to the eerie clown makeup Denzel sported for the album’s promotional imagery. The overall impression was a little like, “See? It’s art! Get it? Get it? … You don’t get it.”
On Zuu, however, it appears that Denzel has learned the principle that Vince, Megan, 03 Greedo, and Rico Nasty figured out this year: Everything doesn’t have to be “deep” to be good. Zuu smartly scales back the theatrics and delivers the sounds of Miami Gardens’ Carol City neighborhood, from the beats to the rhymes to the guest rappers, finally peeling back the layers of artifice to reveal something real about Denzel Curry.