Devised as a multi-act album similar to Tonedeff’s Polymer or Bishop Nehru’s Elevators, Denzel Curry’s third album TABOO (spelled TA13OO) is a fantastic listen, in fact I am pleased to report that this album for me, is Curry’s best release yet. TA13OO is a 13-track LP split into 3 sections; TA13OO Act 1: Light, TA13OO Act 2: Gray, and TA13OO Act 3: Dark (4 tracks, 5 tracks, and 4 tracks respectively giving a sense of balance to the overall project). To get the negative aspects out of the way early, this segmentation is the main (and only) problem with this release. On Spotify for instance, TA1300 is listed as three separate releases (EPs named Acts 1 & 2 alongside the full version) but splitting the album in this way does a disservice to the overall LP. For instance after listening to the first Act you think to yourself; how do these first three mellow songs end with “SUMO”? And why does Denzel Curry start by saying “welcome to the darker side of Taboo”? Is this as dark as it’s going to get? And if this is dark, what’s this song doing in the “Light” EP? If however, you ignore this separation and if you listen to the LP as a whole (all 13 tracks from beginning to end) you’ll agree that TA13OO is a highly enjoyable album. I’ve listened to this LP as a complete piece a few times and it feels like parts of this album will become synonymous with the summer of 2018 and the rest will go down as some of Denzel Curry‘s best songs.
TA13OO is chock-full of differing styles, different sounds, and varying flows. There’s singing in “TABOO | TA13OO”, “BLACK BALLOONS | 13LACK 13ALLONZ”, and “CASH MANIAC | CAZH MAN1AC” the latter track sporting a head-nodding summery vibe with euphonious singing courtesy of Nyyjerya. For fans of R’N’B hooks, there’s also singing in “MAD I GOT IT | MAD 1 GOT 1T” as well as “SIRENS | Z1RENZ”. “SIRENS” which also contains some very pertinent and meaningful lyrics from Curry…
“This for Trayvon and Tree, burn the bush and chronic. Speaking honestly, we living in colonies, CNN sit-comedies. Monstrosity run rampant all throughout United States. Talking about let’s make a fort, talking about let’s make it great. If the shoes fit, tie it, grab the guns and riot. Time to run with lions on the road to Zion. In this age of violence, time to grab the iron. When I pop the silencer, it’s nothing but silence”
…The only down-side to the song is J.I.D. who seems more concerned with showing-off his flow than saying something politically on-par with Denzel who later raps…
“Gotta hate it, gotta love it, Pass a class, I rise above it. Wise enough, advise the public, pistol bust, screaming ‘fuck it’. Donald Trump, Donald Duck, what the fuck is the difference?” – incidentally a pre-election comparison I also made in my caricature of Trump. But I digress.
Of course as a fan of Denzel Curry, the main thing you want to hear is that heavy-bass, mean-sounding scream rap and there’s plenty here; there’s the already released “SUMO | ZUMO”, the Dragon Ball Z-referencing “SUPER SAIYAN SUPERMAN | ZUPER ZA1YAN ZUPERMAN” featuring Curry’s usual rapid-fire delivery, and there’s “VENGEANCE | VENGEANCE” which contains some distorted vocals during the memorable chorus (“I feel the pain, feel the rain, ’cause, bitch, I walk with vengeance”). Featured artists ZillaKami and JPEGMAFIA also impress with their differing styles.
Production-wise there’s also variety on TA13OO. There’s “MAD I GOT IT | MAD 1 GOT 1T” (produced by frequent Sahtyre collaborator Hippie Sabotage and Finatik N Zak). The song features an Asian-sounding melody alongside a complex yet catchy hook and there’s even some Dubstep elements. “THE BLACKEST BALLOON | THE 13LACKEZT 13ALLOON” also contains a buzzing bassline and in contrast “CASH MANIAC | CAZH MAN1AC” sounds more like a mid-90s summer-crossover joint playing in a lowrider. “SWITCH IT UP | ZWITCH 1T UP” produced by Ronny J & !llmind is one of my favourites both in terms of production and lyrics, it contains a suuuuuper-catchy chorus (“that nigga nice, that nigga meeeeean!) and Denzel switches delivery to give some diversification to the song and the album.
“CLOUT COBAIN | CLOUT CO13AIN” contains a less successful chorus and a typical Pop-Trap sound. This is a generic-sounding song that could easily get lost in today’s Hip-Pop scene. Cobain-referencing in contemporary Hp-Hop is almost becoming overdone and with the likes of Bodega Bamz and Flatbush Zombies making better Kurt-related songs, this Nirvana-suicide-mentioning joint is not the best around. And despite the opinion and intention of the music video, aesthetically it just reminds me of that corny “Nu Flow” track by Big Brovaz…
Lyrically there’s some great content on this LP. Aside from the aforementioned “SIRENS | Z1RENZ”, “PERCS | PERCZ” is also a great track, this time with Curry speaking on the current state of Hip-Hop and the music industry…
“Rap game, don’t get it. With these dumbass niggas, and they don’t say shit. Sound like “Durr, durr, durr”, you like ‘Oh, that’s lit!’. With yo’ boof-ass hits – ‘I’ma fuck yo’ bitch, I just popped two Xans’ – nigga, fuck that shit!”
“Get it straight, I innovate, you ad-libs on a 808. Don’t need a tattoo on my face ’cause Denzel is a different race. I don’t even try to hate, I’m just saying what I ain’t. People sleeping on me hard and I’m the hardest in the paint. Eight years in the game and I never rode a wave. I may be overlooked, but I’m never underpaid, and when I win a Grammy I’ma take it back to Dade. You signing to a label where they treat you like a slave”
The album ends with the track “BLACK METAL TERRORIST | 13 M T” a typical, imposing song with apt calls to “Finish ’em Zel!”.
After the 13 EP released last year, TA13OO is without a doubt the album we’ve all been waiting for. The standout tracks are “SUMO (ZUMO)”, “SWITCH IT UP (ZWITCH 1T UP)”, “MAD I GOT IT (MAD 1 GOT 1T)”, “SIRENS (Z1RENZ)”, “PERCS (PERCZ)”, “VENGEANCE”, and “BLACK METAL TERRORIST (13 M T)”, but “CASH MANIAC (CAZH MAN1AC)” and “SUPER SAIYAN SUPERMAN (ZUPER ZA1YAN ZUPERMAN)” are also decent tracks. The only weak song is “CLOUT COBAIN (CLOUT CO13AIN)” but it’s not exactly bad, it’s just not as good as the rest.
The first three tracks on this album are very easy-going and mellow, but then it’s back-to-back, typical unrelenting rapping from Denzel Curry… you know, music that 6ix9ine wishes he could make? There’s so many memorable songs on this album that it’s hard to choose a favourite but I will say that “SWITCH IT UP” has to make it to the top of the charts but only if rap fans get their shit together and start buying decent Hip-Hop.
Mentioning or referencing everything from Stephen King’s IT, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Mask, Bob Marley, racism, politics, bi-polar disorder, anime, board games, and laundry detergent, this is an album that nobody but Denzel Curry could make. Listening to TA13OO is like riding a rusty, twisted, inter-dimensional roller-coaster on an alien planet; there’s relaxing parts, there’s hair-raising parts, there’s deep dives, tight turns, thundering sounds, and unexpected loops and when you’ve finished you wanna go back and do the whole thing again.
Light To Dark, Dark To Light.