When this album’s first ‘act’ came out, I was impressed by what seemed to be Denzel Curry venturing outside of his comfort zone. While bangers like “Sumo” and “Percz” were both great songs full of wordplay and the grit Denzel always brings, songs like “Taboo” and “Black Balloons” utilized sounds and styles that I’d never have imagined on a Denzel Curry song. When all three acts of TA13OO came out, these interesting sounds seemed to carry across the album. Yet, something didn’t feel right.
What was the purpose of the album being in three different ‘acts’? After some research, it was clear that it was intended to mark a shift from light to darkness. The problem is that Denzel Curry had done a great job of making every song particularly dark. Each act seems to have at least one banger and one dark, introspective or thoughtful song. It doesn’t feel like there’s much of a difference between them, and if they were placed in a different order it wouldn’t matter. The ‘act’ concept just doesn’t work.
That aside, what does work on this album is Curry’s experimentation as well as the ideas he communicates on the more serious songs. “Black Balloons” has to be the prime example of this. The poppiest and smoothest Curry has ever sounded, this song begins to flesh out one of the albums main themes: Curry’s paranoid loneliness. Echoed again on songs like “Clout Cobain” as well as on “The Blackest Balloon,” “TABOO” laments Curry’s inability to trust those around him in the face of his success and his inability to overcome the sadness that this fills him with. The former song conveys this a little better, especially with it’s music video, as “Clout Cobain” is where Curry gets to the heart of this problem. He doesn’t know who around him is THERE for him or there for HIM. In this confusion, there’s a paranoia that forces Curry into isolation from those who might just be there for his fame and not because they care about him the way he needs to be cared about.
There’s something tragically beautiful in Curry’s cycle of alienation, especially when he is able to express different kinds of alienation (see “Sirens”), but this theme is what makes songs like “Sumo” and “Super Saiyan Superman” feel out of place. While they’re both great songs, the energy and witty references don’t feel in line with what the record is trying to do. It is here that this albums major problem lies: it doesn’t keep to its trajectory, and that stops from going as far as it should have. There isn’t a bad song on this album, but some of the songs are bad for the album.
Denzel Curry has to be one of the most interesting new faces in hip-hop, and this album is a confirmation that he has the talent that his former projects just began to reveal. If the next project is more honed and focused, I can’t see why Curry couldn’t make an ‘album of the year.’ Furthermore, one would be remiss to even suggest that these aren’t all amazing songs, full of emotion and creativity. It’s odd to think he got this far because of some high schoolers flipping water bottles.