Denzel Curry on the Neo-Soul of the Nineties and how he transposes into today

Denzel Curry is one of the most interesting rappers today, one who is constantly evolving. Now his album »Melt My Eyez See Your Future« is out, inspired by the Soulquarians and made with the help of Questlove, Saul Williams and Thundercat. We had the opportunity to talk about his new music, his influences from the Soulquarians to anime, and clarify whether there will be a joint album with Flying Lotus.

Denzel Curry has released one of the best records of US hiphop with his fifth album »Melt My Eyez See Your Future«. On none of his previous releases has the 27-year-old sounded so grounded and self-confident. It’s no wonder that Curry himself says in the press release that this is his best album to date. The Florida-born artist addresses on this album God, the world and himself in all openness. The most obvious influences were Star Wars, Japanese pop culture and the sound of the Soulquarians. Time for a conversation with one of the (famously) friendliest rappers in the business. About inquiries with Saul Williams and ?uestlove, how many songs didn’t make it onto »Melt My Eyez See Your Future« and when this album with Flying Lotus is finally coming, which everyone on the internet is rumored to have heard about.

Shortly before the release of »Melt My Eyez See Your Future« you yourself said it was your best record so far. How do you know that?
Denzel Curry: Because on »Melt My Eyez See Your Future« there is no skip. I know it’s my best album because I just felt it with these tracks. Unlike my previous albums, which are good records. However, some tracks wouldn’t have belonged on those albums. Whether it was due to my negligence or just us going back and forth within the process when we need to fill space, you know, just to make the idea work. Like those records, the majority of the body working good, but a couple of those tracks shouldn’t have made the cut.

How many tracks didn’t make it onto »Melt My Eyez See Your Future«?
Denzel Curry: A lot of tracks, and the crazy thing is a couple of those tracks are really good tracks. It’s just that they didn’t fit in sonically to the record. Maybe down the line you guys will hear them. But some tracks I gave to other people. In the first phase of the project I did »Worst Comes To Worst« and another song with Meech – and then gave the song to Meech because it just didn’t fit on »Melt My Eyez See Your Future«. But it fits perfectly sonically on his album.

How did the collaboration with Saul Williams happen?
Denzel Curry: That happened at Electric Lady Studios in New York. When I was mixing and working on the album, I wanted to do it right – I wanted to do the session there because I wanted to show people exactly the Soulquarians thing. The Soulquarians had a huge influence on this album. So if it was going to be a studio in New York, it was going to be Electric Lady.

And Saul Williams?
Denzel Curry: We just went through the album after mixing. Then we played »Mental«, which didn’t have a second verse at the time. I didn’t want to add a second verse either. But then I thought: »You know who would do well in that spot? Saul Williams.« My manager shouted across the room: »Hell yeah! We’ll make that happen.« I’m a big fan of Saul Williams in »Slam« and »Coded Language« and his stuff at Def Poetry Jam. All in all, he’s one of my favorite poets.

Speaking of Soulquarians: Have you also asked Questlove or Erykah Badu for a collaboration?
Denzel Curry: I tried it with Questlove, but not with Erykah Badu. I saw her like twice. Once at Coachella, where she was dj’ing. That was in 2017, we took a picture together with a few people. The second time was at XXXTentacion’s funeral, which we both attended. Those were the two times I saw her. We didn’t even really talk to each other.

Denzel Curry
© PH Recordings

And you have a deeper connection to Questlove?
Denzel Curry: No, it’s not that, I love Erykah’s music and I love what ?uestlove does. I studied what he did on the Roots’ »Things Fall Apart«, on D’Angelo’s album, on Erykah’s album, on Commons’ album. The way he laid down the percussion, that’s what I wanted for my album. I wanted it to feel like the drums were moving you. That’s what I took from ?uestlove. And I wanted it on this album. When I wrote the first list for the production, his name was on it.

Japanese pop culture and anime also had their influence on the album?
Denzel Curry: Definitely. You have tracks like »Sanjuro« and »Zatoichi« on this record – and samurai movies helped me cultivate those ideas. I watched how director Akira Kurosawa choreographed movements and showed it to people when they came to the studio. I showed them that and the Pitchfork documentary about the Soulquarians. When I talk about the samurai aspect – »Sanjuro« is about how you fight through everything in this world. Especially as a rapper. We have the highest homicide rate! It all just makes sense. My love for Japanese pop culture and anime is also just a part of me.

But you didn’t put any reverence to »Dragon Ball« on the album, did you?
Denzel Curry: No, not a quote from »Dragon Ball«, no. But there are a few »Naruto« reverences. For example in »The Smell Of Death«. (Appropriately produced by Thundercat, editor’s note) It says: »Then pick the time to engage so you feel rage like Naruto in his sage mode.« And on »Melt Session #1« there’s another subtle reverence that probably no one will catch: »Now almighty pushing through the pain.« Because Pain is part of Akatsuki and he has the Rin’negan and his move is called »The Allmighty Push«. But I use it more in the sense of pushing through something.

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What are your plans for your artistic future? What do you still want to achieve?
Denzel Curry: Grammy!

Denzel Curry: A Grammy.

But why?
Denzel Curry: That’s just what I want. That’s my highest goal with making music. First I wanted to be the best rapper, now I want to be the best artist. Now I know I have the potential to be the best artist. How do I get this Grammy? When I have that thing, I’m straight, then I’m relaxed.

Although your record is a lot about guilt and anger and God, your sound is also very dark, you are a very nice person. (As other interviewers also stated.) Why?
Denzel Curry: It’s pretty easy to be a shitty character. And I do my best not to be a shitty character. Sometimes I do see myself that way, believe me – but I’d rather be a nice person.

Because the rumor keeps coming up: Will there ever be an album by Flying Lotus and you?
Denzel Curry: Oh yes! Definitely, hell yeah! I wanted FlyLo on this album!

Why didn’t that happen?
Denzel Curry: Rescheduling. That was on me..

But you are working concretely on an album or it is just a plan for now?
Denzel Curry: Future plan. I would like to talk to him about it. I’m pretty sure he’d be down – he sends me beats all the time and I’ll just find the ones that I like. Plus: Thundercat, he and I are mad cool. It just gonna happen one day.

Denzel Curry
Melt My Eyez See Your Future
Loma Vista • 2022 • from 27.99€