Denzel Curry has turned the mantra “never forget where you came from” into a 12-song opus dedicated to his Carol City, Fla. stomping grounds. ZUU, the rapper’s fourth studio album, is a sonic homesick salute to Miami-Dade County. To celebrate the release of his new effort, Denzel uses his art school expertise to symbolize the meaning of ZUU by drawing a stellar self-portrait for XXL‘s Masterpiece series.
If you’re expecting the same sounds and vibes from his TA13OO LP—one of the best projects of 2018—to be heard on ZUU, kick that thought to the curb. With a new project comes evolution and ever since his induction into the 2016 XXL Freshman class, Denzel has been advancing on both a professional and personal tip. ZUU features Denzel’s sonorous delivery and raucous energy across a mix of bass-heavy odes and turn-up records.
While ZUU is centered on Denzel’s Miami roots, the final product is the work of many. ZXLTRXN shows love to the many artists and producers that had a hand in ZUU, FNZ, Keanubeats, Mickey De Grande, Charlie Heat, Kiddo Marv, Rick Ross, Tay Keith, J. Nics, Rugah Rahj, Bushy B, Twelve’Len, Plus Pierre, Ice Billion Berg, Sam Sneak, Spaceghostpurrp, Ronny J, PlayThatBoiZay, LUCY!, Soulja Mook, Rickey Curry, Lower East Coast and Tate Kobang included.
On the FNZ-produced “BIRDZ,” Denzel tapped Rick Ross to bless the alarming beat. The message here: don’t start nothing, there won’t be nothing.
“‘Birdz’ was already completed,” Denzel shares. “It was just the first verse, second verse and that was it. And then [my manager] Mark had the idea, ‘Well, why don’t we try to get Ross on it.’ I was like that will work ’cause I fuck with fool. I ended up hitting him up, you know, and we just talked on Twitter. Yeah, you can talk to people on Twitter and shit, not being an ass. We had each other’s number and I just sent him the song and he got it back in like five days.”
When it comes to “AUTOMATIC,” Memphis’ own Tay Keith linked with Denzel Curry for the first time in Miami last month to chop it up and the rest is history.
“Tay Keith knew about me since the Raider Clan days, which most people would not ever guess ever,” Denzel explains. “We have mutual respect for each other. I like what he doing. I didn’t expect him to send me a beat until I reached out to him on Instagram. And when we ended up talking, we ended up talking for an hour. I was like, fool cool as hell. And then at Rolling Loud, that was the first time we met in person. The next day it was my brother’s birthday, and I was like slide to the crib. We were playing Uno, Soulcaliber. There is always a mutual respect with Tay Keith.”
The song itself comes from a very personal place for Denzel. “‘Automatic’ is a song about automatically you gotta have everything because back in the day I had nothing,” he admits. “Barely had supporters, barely had friends. I wasn’t the most popular guy back then. Automatically I wanted to be popular, automatically I wanted to have girls, automatically I wanted to have money. Automatically I wanted to do this shit. But over time, as you keep going on, you realize that shit ain’t really what it’s cracked up to be. But people will try to ride your coattail when they see you doing well.”
Longtime friend Ronny J came through with an assist on “P.A.T.” featuring rising Carol City rapper PlayThatBoiZay. The beat for the track went through several renditions before the final beat was selected. “I pretty much put together two things that I liked,” Denzel affirms. “I like how this sounds and I like how this sounds and this match this. That’s how you got ‘P.A.T.’ on the album. We kept Ronny’s drums and stuff and then added bass, added samples, all types of stuff that we could get cleared. We actually sampled Spaceghostpurpp stuff on there. We sampled ‘PXSSXSSXD’ that was on Blackland Radio.”
During his Masterpiece session, Denzel opted to do his own thing and rather than paint the songs that culminate the album, he chose to draw an amazing self-portrait. The end result is the growth of a 24-year-old rapper living his dream.
“I drew a self portrait because this is the man I am now,” Denzel says. “Clean-cut, nice, dreads looking nice. I never thought I would be this man right here. I never thought that I would be looking like this because throughout my whole life, you know, I wasn’t like the most fashionable or anything. But living in the city I live in, I became the person I became. I guess with ZUU, I’m just a product of my own environment that found a way to get out and articulate it to the masses and to everybody that doesn’t understand how I grew up or where I’m from. That’s why ZUU is a real important piece in my life because I wrote this when I was really homesick.”
Watch Denzel Curry create his ZUU masterpiece up top.