An ode to everything that made him, Denzel Curry's fourth album, ZUU, is a bold and bombastic set of gut-rumbling rap anthems ideal for windows-down summer driving. Unlike 2018's dark and moody Ta13oo, ZUU is energized, party-friendly, and fun, buffered by a nostalgic throwback energy that ties his past to the present. Lyrically, that past is entrenched throughout, with Curry honoring his parents, shouting out Florida rap predecessors Rick Ross, Trick Daddy, Plies, and Trina, and painting a rich, detailed canvas of daily life in Miami's Carol City neighborhood. Production-wise, ZUU is a thrill, a blend of classic Miami bass and Curry's twisted experimental rap potpourri. At a trim 29 minutes, there's not a second wasted here; even the interludes contribute to the overall hometown experience and are funny to boot. Highlights abound, including the speaker-blasting "Ricky" -- named after Curry's father -- and the menacing collaboration with Maybach don Rick Ross on the feverish bass boomer "BIRDZ." While Curry maintains his position as one of the more thoughtful and introspective emcees of his generation -- delivering anguished tracks such as "Speedboat" and "Bushy B Interlude" -- ZUU is mostly concerned with head-spinning, physically inspiring jams. This ethos is especially apparent during the wild closing stretch, which kicks off with standout "Carolmart" featuring Ice Billion Berg. Atop funhouse production, Curry showers love upon Dade County and South Florida, boasting with a wink as the thundering bass splits the concrete of the streets he's representing. "Shake 88" with Sam Sneak pivots to the strip club, absorbing some raucous New Orleans bounce into Curry's orbit. He closes with the cacophonous "P.A.T." featuring PlayThatBoiZay, ending an otherwise fun-loving album with an aggressive, menacing rager that reminds listeners that sunny Florida still has its share of violence, drugs, and mischief. In less than a half hour, Curry establishes himself not only as one of the most capable and exciting artists of his generation, but also worthy of a place in Miami's rap pedigree, right alongside the local icons who inspired this gem.
by Neil Z. Yeung
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