nz music journalist

Denzel Curry Interview

Denzel Curry Interview

Originally published at Complex. Photography by James Harrison

Denzel Curry’s psychotropic world is a fluid concoction of 90s rap, Adult Swim cartoons, and illicit activity. The 20-year-old flows effortlessly over multi-coloured production ranging from Yeezus era beats to murky lo-fi. Within the same breath, he’ll recall experimenting with LSD, eulogise fallen comrades and shout-out Super Mario Bros. Raised in Miami’s infamous Zone 3, Curry’s music reflects an upbringing peppered with the innocence of a good home and the eye-opening violence that surrounded it.

The self-styled “Aquarius Killa” posted his debut mixtape on SpaceGhostPurrp’s website in 2011 and was invited to join Raider Klan while still in high school. His confident double-time raps and retro Memphis Horrorcore aesthetic quickly gained attention, but his parents insisted he focus on school. Curry released three projects before leaving the Klan to pursue a solo career and in 2013 dropped his debut Nostalgic 64. This year, Curry followed up with double EP 32Zel/Planet Shrooms, which bangs front to back. The projects also serve as a dedication to Denzel’s brother who was killed by a policeman’s taser and his friend Tiara Grant who was fatally shot during recording.

We caught up with Denzel before he tore shit down at his London show last week. The undeniably passionate MC discussed getting a million plays on Soundcloud, mixing art with music, why he keeps his collaborations in-house and how personal tragedy impacts his content.

Your family is from the Bahamas. Did you grow up with that culture?

I grew up in South Florida. It’s like a cultural melting pot where I come from, but my people’s are of Bahamian descent and I have cousins in Nassau on the other side that stays in the Bahamas. It’s both Bahamian on my mom and dad’s side.

You’ve been open about not being a gangsta. Your lyrics are based on your environment as well as people you know. What kept you away from the streets growing up?

My parents. Even though they had disputes and they had their problems, I would say yeah, they’re good parents. Like my moms is very independent, my father is very independent and that’s pretty much where I get it from. They always stress that you should make something [of yourself]. You don’t want to stay in the same crib until you’re like 23. I’m not trying to do that.

Kevin Gates update


kevin gates ymcmb


Originally published at Passionweiss.

Kevin Gates is so good at rapping that the XXL Freshman ’14 cover could have been a close-up of his face. Few MCs combine lucid crime recollections, vulnerable introspection and speaker knockers quite like the Baton Rouge renegade. While the Passionweiss squad works on converting the site into an unofficial KG focus group, I’ve taken on the enviable task of sharing with you a few of his latest releases in the lead up to Luca Brasi 2.

Fellow Southerner Trae The Truth featured Gates on “Dark Angel,” and released the video last week. Despite a cameo from Lil Bibby instead of Jessica Alba and trying a little too hard to be cinematic, it’s worth a watch. KG starts off with a lengthy verse that covers more interesting topics in two minutes than many artists do on a whole album. Gates performs a soliloquy referencing belief in a higher power, struggles with drug use and trying to sate a mourning family’s loss with money. The 28 year old also boldly admits to sexual inadequacy, which is something even less heard in rap than stringed instruments. Although it doesn’t have the same emotional impact, Trae’s verse shouldn’t be ignored either. He does an admirable job of following up Kevin’s powerful testimony, delivering solid tales of struggle with his trademark rapid-fire flow.



Next up is the video for “Posed To Be In Love,” which was included on this year’s mixtape By Any Means and may or may not have been shot using an iPhone camera. Some listeners felt Gates’ decision to discuss domestic violence glorified spousal assault, but the track is more complex than the knee-jerk reaction it inspires. It’s fair to assume with an artist as self-aware Gates, that he includes nuances to the story for a reason. Kevin mentions stalking and an obsession with his female counterpart to cement his character as a deranged lover rather than someone to be revered.



While not the best decision to release visuals for a tale of battery when he could have chosen another single, the clip does further distance KG from the story. He’s seen as an observer in the video rather than the protagonist. Like many great artists his lyrics are capable of inspiring a range of emotions including shock, awe and sometimes revulsion.

Thankfully Gates also left us with a few gems before hitting the road and he’s yet to show any signs of creative burnout aka “Mixtape Circuit Syndrome.” Listen below for his menacing OG Bobby Johnson freestyle, the threatening croak of “Nothing” and finally the hypnotic “Cut Her Off” freestyle. You’re welcome.


 

Edit: Gates' new track with Lil Bibby included above. 

Eiffel 65 Interview



I interviewed Eiffel 65 famed for their hit “Blue (Da Ba Dee)." Why? Because it’s funny and also because it’s interesting to see what happens to artists after a brief run of success. A lot of people known for being one hit wonders become public laughing stocks. They'll do multiple trips to rehab, appear alongside other lesser life forms on reality TV or wallow in obscurity. Often it seems like it's better to have no hits than one, which is weird considering it’s a form of success many underground acts strive toward. Of course, it doesn't help the music is frequently terrible and their success is often accidental. Lead singer Jeffrey Jey seemed like a pretty nice guy though. Read the full interview here. 

Dante Higgins and Undergravity - The Freshest MCs


dante higgins

Written for Passionweiss

Introducing Undergravity, the self-proclaimed “funkiest duo in Houston” consisting of Atom Bomb and Mastermind After Cash. The Space Jammers recently joined forces with local freestyler Dante Higgins, who you’ll recognize by his higher vocal pitch. In the process, they released a video for “My Town” the other week, which drew my attention for several reasons: the jammin’ beat, catchy sung hook and thanks to M.A.C. the most fun line I’ve heard all month (“You might find a n*gga on a horse, you might find a n*gga in a Porsche.”)


Excellent equine references aside, their throwback Southern sound is a welcome oasis from trap’s current bass-knocking dominance. On first listen the trio may draw lazy comparisons to 3rd Ward alumni UGK and while neither residing at that level or sounding identical, it’s a safe bet they’re fans. “My Town” comes from last year’s mixtape The Freshest MCs which features Atom, M.A.C and Dante trading bars over soulful or funky beats with horns and keys to drive slow to. 



“Goin Live” boasts more fun lewd raps, with Higgins again proving that the collaboration was a good idea. His imaginative nurse fantasies detail why having a medical expert involved with your escapades is a safety conscious decision. (“She hooked me up to a jumper cable, pulled out a defibrillator, Looked at me and said don’t be scared, I’ll shock your ass if your heart ain’t stable.”) A luxurious saxophone similar to a La Musica De Harry Fraud beat plays throughout and between songs like this or the 2Pac-sampling “Yellowstone B,” you can tell these guys are sure-handed at selecting their production. 



The Freshest MCs serves more as a taste of the group’s versatility than a complete album. That said, it’s strange to hear lines about having no money during the humble “Fly On The Wall” and then braggado directly afterwards on the unimaginative “Did You Miss Me.” The bottom line is that these guys rap well, their music is solid, and they’ve got chemistry. If they don’t ditch Dante and keep rapping over funky beats, they’ll keep rising.

Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels Review

RUN THE JEWELS

For the annual Passionweiss Top 50 albums of 2013, I wrote about Killer Mike and El-P's excellent "Run The Jewels" EP at number six. Read the rest of the feature here. 

32 minutes. 10 stick-up kid salvos. Two great artists bludgeon the rap industry with skull-cracking rhymes, stealing diamonds while they do it. At first glance, they make an unlikely combination: the fiery avatar of old no-bullshit Brooklyn who made “independent as fuck” a war whoop, with a Dungeon family strip club connoisseur. But Killer Mike and EL-P are built tougher than the leather on Run and Paul Pierce’s jacket.

Instead of focusing on production like their first collaboration, 2012’s R.A.P Music, EL-P picks up the mic and matches his partner verse for verse. There’s an air of competitiveness and genuine friendship as Jamie and Mike swoop in like your favorite anti-heroes. This is lyrical, but there’s no preachiness or by-the-numbers wordplay. These guys have mastered the art of shit-talking and combined with some extremely listenable aggression, their wit stays cutting. Killer Mike “Shyne Po’s a ho.” His partner in crime does the cleat Riverdance on your face.

When the coolest duo of 2013 are rapping about kicking over your son’s fort and taking grip plyers to your feet, it’s hard not to pay attention. If a project makes you feel like enough of a badass to mean-mug the elderly whilst on public transportation, it’s a winner.

Note: You can check out my previous interview with Killer Mike here. 




Caninus - The Grindcore Band Fronted By Two Dogs

grindcore

I wrote about this hilarious band with dog vocalists for Vice/Noisey.

Caninus believe true metal singers walk on four legs and take a shit on your lawn without asking. The New York grindcore band has recorded three albums with dog singers because a pit bull’s bark is more brutal than anything a puny human could muster. They’re not the only ones who recognize the power of animal vocals either. There’s death metal band Hatebeak, who are fronted by an African Grey Parrot named Waldo, as well as YouTube videos of metal monkeys, roosters and cats

Female duo Basil and Budgie acted as the frontmen (or frontdogs) of Caninus until the tragic passing of Basil due to a brain tumor in 2011, and the band is recording a new album in her honor. But the dogs aren’t just barking for tummy rubs, their music has a message. The group are avid animal rights activists and promote veganism, adopting homeless pets and protest pitbull misconceptions. Their song titles include "Bite The Hand That Breeds You," “Locking Jaws” and "Fuck The American Kennel Club.” 
The sweet death barks of Caninus will either send a shiver up your spine or tempt you into humping your neighbour’s leg, and both of those are good things. I spoke to guitarist Belle Molotov about rumors that Susan Sarandon is a fan, their split EP with Hatebeak, Richard Christy of The Howard Stern Show joining the band and if the dogs have ever performed live. 

How did the idea come about to use dogs as your vocalists?
 
We were all fans of grindcore and death metal bands, and we noticed one day that our dogs could growl with the best of them. We learned how to safely get them to growl and bark along to the music and Caninus was born. We got a lot of backlash that we were actually recording the dogs fighting but that's bullshit. Hasn't anyone seen the Husky that can say "I love you?"

Do you find their voices more powerful than humans?

Hell yeah. They were born to do it and the intensity is there and the dogs have an important message to get across. They can be just as uncooperative as human singers as well and can be total divas.

How did you get them pumped up to perform?


We do lots of calisthenics - we practice "give me paw", "rollover", "take a bow" and give them lots of treats. Then the rawhide comes out and the vocals just start flowing naturally.

Has the band ever played live?


There are rumors of live shows and we have been on a stage with the dogs during a live show. No one ever knows when we will play and it always has to be a surprise.

Do the dogs ever listen to the music? How do they respond?

The dogs always perk up when they hear the music and especially the vocals. It's better to see the reaction of other dogs listening to Caninus. It's like they get a look on their face like "I know what they're saying" and they get all riled up. There are some videos on YouTube of dogs listening to Caninus. Look them up.

Tell us about the concepts behind your songs.


Most of the songs concern issues that pit bulls face today. They are the most misunderstood and abused breed out there. The lyrics give the dogs' perspective on all that they face as pit bulls and as dogs. The dogs sit down and try and explain to us what they want us to say and we try our best to put it on paper.

Could you tell us about some of the other activism you're involved with?

Budgie, the last remaining singer, is very active in trying to be pet, to steal your food, and to get into the bathroom garbage to snack on dirty Q-Tips and tampons.

You guys are vegans too right?

Budgie and Basil were never vegans. They usually enjoyed a diet of Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance dog food or raw meat, fruits and vegetables.

How was working with the parrot singer Waldo from Hatebeak?


The singer was a bit of a diva. He's really loud and likes to repeat things over and over again. But overall we got along and we think it was a great split.

What do you think of their vocalist?


His squawk is no match for our growl.

You worked with Cattle Decapitation as well?


Yes, we released a split 7" with the awesome Cattle Decapitation some years ago. That was our last release. Although, there are no actual cows in the band. We were a little disappointed by that but still went forward with the split anyway.

Why did you decide to end the band after Basil died in 2011?


Technically the band is still around. We've been working on a tribute album to Basil as Budgie is still alive and doing great even at 14 years old. She misses her sister and wants a fitting memorial to her. We have a couple songs written but it's been slow going lately due to Budgie's arthritis.

Your website says you've received approval from celebrities like Susan Sarandon?


She loves us- so does Bernadette Peters.

How did you meet drummer Richard Christy, from The Howard Stern Show?


He was a big fan so we asked Budgie and Basil if he could join the band and they said it was cool. Unfortunately Basil never had a chance to meet him in person, but Budgie hopes to meet him one day.

Are there any other animals you'd like to collaborate with?

We'd love to work with the stray cats.


Shy Glizzy: Street Poet or Poor Man's Boosie?



By Jimmy Ness and originally written for Passionweiss

It’s cool to be weird in 2013. Danny Brown is Yakuza dope boy chic, Future’s an astronaut, Lil Wayne wears leopard print jeggings and Lil B’s cat has recorded more songs than you. Nostalgic fans see the ‘90s as the zenith of rap and I’m not inclined to argue, but there’s also something to be said for this era in which artists are free to experiment.

Washington D.C.’s Shy Glizzy isn’t the most innovative or strange, but there’s something oddly fascinating about his raggedly long sideburns, high pitch and sometimes boyish persona. The 20 year old, whose name is an acronym of ‘Street’s Hottest Youngin’ and a slang term for a glock, is a relative newcomer with less than five official mixtapes under his name. There’s only a few interviews with him online, and it takes a deep Google search to reveal his supposed government name: Marquis King.

Glizzy claims to have spent much of his youth robbing people and discovered he had a talent for rap after trying to write a book during a stay in a youth detention center. While third rate crack rappers from the front page of Datpiff trade phony coke stories and clamber over each other for the next big trap single, the Southeast DC rookie distinguishes himself with tales of the underclass, a nasally twang and simple, yet effective hooks. But is he just a poor man’s Lil Boosie?

Wale nearly signed the 20 year old to his BOA label, and MMG also courted him briefly. Everyone’s favorite felon Gunplay even appeared in the video for “Busters,” but not everyone is convinced. Chief Keef and Fat Trel had him banned from their DC show last year over some convoluted Twitter beef, which is probably Mr Folarin’s fault. Glizzy, of course, used this as an opportunity to gain some shine and released several tracks including a mediocre Keef diss called “3 Milli.” Shy flashes a piece in the video, says the O Blocker sounds like he’s 40 and spits the terribad line “I’mma catch your grandmother and shoot her in her titties.”

Despite the uninspired granny diss, Glizzy is a pretty unique character and the wiry rapper occasionally avoids the ultra-masculine bravado of the traditional MC. Shy references being raised by his grandmother and mother in various songs, sometimes calling the latter “mommy.” On “I came from nothing” off the mixtape Law, he also mentions his lack of athleticism. “Lord have mercy on me. Uhh, I wasn’t blessed to be LeBron. I wasn’t blessed to have a Michael Vick arm.”

Glizzy’s latest mixtape, Fxck Rap, is also an interesting listen. There’s personal tales about getting kicked out of multiple high schools, trying PCP and the murder of his father. But Shy’s true strength lies in catchy song writing.

“Swish” and “Pilot” are pretty solid singles and the album’s production is decent. “Swish” thumps like a trap anthem should and Glizzy uses the line “Pop a model, pop a bottle,” which could be a hook in itself. He also mentions groupies who are willing to do anything for a Twitter follow, and my hope for the human race decreases.

Glizzy’s appearance on newcomer AR-ab’s track “Shoot Gunz” further demonstrates his unique presence. Though the track is AR-ab’s, it belongs to Shy. He nasally raps the hook, switches his flow and calls himself “a glock connoisseur” before his co-star intrudes with forgettable thug raps.

However, Shy’s vocabulary is limited and he relies on rapping the same word multiple times. Some of his metaphors break the barrier between funny a la 2 Chainz and straight embarrassing. Lines like “I told her I’m the shit, she say you don’t even stink,” are lazy at best and should be kept for post-jail Lil Wayne. On Fxck Rap, Glizzy admits he’s only been rapping for two years, and it often shows.

If I were a rap soothsayer, I’d say Shy has three career paths. He will improve and put out a solid project that will win him mass appeal. He could fade into obscurity or get big quickly off a gimmicky single. Being a pessimist, I’m going to assume it’s one of the last two and an early collaboration with Trinidad James might mean he’s already looking for a trend or “hot artist” to piggyback him. But Shy Glizzy shows promise, and I’d be happy to be proven wrong.