Image Courtesy of Genius
By Joey Brasco
Denzel Curry has steadily built up an enviable musical catalog through the 2010s. Whether that be his uncompromising display of aggression on Imperial (2016), or the dark, moody, and introspective Taboo (2018), Denzel has shown a tremendous level of ambition in regard to his musical output. His newest record, Melt My Eyez See Your Future, is no different, serving as a spiritual deep dive into the artist’s psyche. This album also forgoes the aggressive tone his previous albums have thrived on, opting instead for a more mellow instrumental palate and calmer, reflective lyricism.
This change of pace is made clear right from the get-go with “Melt Session #1.” This track reads like a therapy session, with Denzel delivering a non-stop flow over live drumming, heavy cymbal crashes, and somber piano chords courtesy of Robert Glasper. The lyrics are crushing, with references to suicidal ideation and remorse for people he has hurt in the past.
“Melt Session #1” introduces the “keep walking” mantra which is expanded upon on the subsequent track “Walkin.” Released in early 20222 as a promotional single, this song has already cemented itself as one of Denzel’s best. Opening with sultry female vocal samples and sounds of boots stomping, the track’s first half features thumping boom-bap style drums and a commanding flow from Denzel.
The second half of the track switches it up with a more trap-flavored instrumental and incredibly powerful bass. Denzel matches the energy with a rapid-fire flow on the chorus that addictively syncopates itself with the booming bass hits. The track delves into themes of perseverance in life despite emotional pain.
“Worst Comes To Worst” offers much less exuberant energy. Featuring haunting background vocals, eerie record scratches, and clanky drums, the track delivers an atmosphere of impending doom. Denzel paints a picture of looking to God for answers amidst conditions of street violence and poverty.
“This couldn’t be what you summoned / The children hide and they runnin’, my prayers are at your door.”
Furthering the tale of street violence is the track “John Wayne,” produced by frequent collaborator JPEGMAFIA. Anyone familiar with his work will instantly recognize this beat as his; featuring warped female vocal leads, sour piano chords, rumbling bass, and disorienting gunshot effects. Denzel sounds manic in his singular verse; with a growled delivery, he raps about guns and paranoia.
These themes are emphasized in the chorus where he proclaims, “Walk around the hood like I’m John Wayne / Nine on my hip,” comparing himself to the gunslinging action movie hero.
“The Last” is a much more mellow song than the tracks that preceded it. Denzel half-raps, half-sings over a spacey, atmospheric instrumental. The extended chorus takes up a great deal of the track and is supremely catchy.
This track features tragic lyrical moments like, “pour up gin and tonic just to calm my conscious / wonderin’ on every second, I wanna leave.”
“Troubles,”the third single released to promote this record, sticks out in the mix. It is not a bad song by any means, but its short runtime and trendy beat do not seem to be cut from the same cloth as the meditative and introspective vibe the rest of the songs carry. T-Pain provides an amazing feature here, though, with his auto-tuned vocal acrobatics stealing the show.
“Ain’t No Way” is a stellar showcase of all the artists featured. The song features rappers Rico Nasty, JID, as well as R&B vocalist 6LACK, whose comatose vocal on the chorus serves as a syrupy smooth interlude that breaks up the verses.
The song goes through multiple phases, featuring different instrumental flavors throughout the track. Rico goes first, as the production delivers bombastic bass and crazy drums to match her off-the-wall delivery.
JID and Denzel then team up for smooth flows over a nostalgic, soul-sampling beat with steady drums. The cascading samples during this section envelop listeners with an intoxicating vibe. Denzel’s verse is a standout here, sounding like an artist transformed from the angry days of his youth.
“X-Wing” is a real surprise in the tracklisting. Over an instrumental with heavy bass and an addictive key melody, Denzel opens the track with a hilarious observation on his career.
“All these beats go dumb in the stereo / but I’m, just too smart for the radio.”
It just so happens that this song features one of the most commercial sounding beats and vocal performances from Denzel, but he pulls it off incredibly well. His calm and melodic flow, addictive chorus, and countless quotable lines, (“F**k a TikTok, bought a new watch” & “Stead of counting sheep, I count dollars” to name a few), make for a wildly entertaining moment that proves he has a wider mainstream appeal than his numbers may reflect.
“Zatoichi,” the second track released as a single for this record, is an experimental track featuring break-beat production and a heavily distorted punk delivery from British rapper slowthai on the chorus. If fans were worried Denzel was making a jump to mainstream rap on “X-Wing,” rest assured that he will still put out wild experiments like this.
“The Ills” ends this album neatly, with an elegant, dusty piano sample and chilled raps from Denzel. It perfectly encapsulates the space this album inhabits, a meditative journey through one’s own psyche. Denzel sounds optimistic about moving forward in life, but still has parts of his past that will stick with him.
He asks, “Forgive me for all I done, ‘cause I be barely prayin.’” However, Denzel Curry will never have to atone for a lackluster album. Melt My Eyez See Your Future is another worthy addition to his musical catalog and stands out as being the most intimate view into the artist’s psyche yet. He trades the visceral energy of his last projects for a more earnest and vulnerable collection of songs. Punctuated by the complex and soulful instrumentation, this album will surely grow on many with continued listens.