Name: Denzel Curry
Current Release: Denzel Curry's Melt My Eyez See Your Future is out via PH.
If you enjoyed this interview with Denzel Curry, visit his official website for more information. He is also on Instagram, twitter, and Soundcloud. For an even deeper look into his work, check out our conversation with him about the relationship between music and lyrics.
In the lyrics to one of the songs on the new album, T-Pain claims that there are things that music can't fix. Turning that around – what are some of the things that music can fix?
It can get the stuff that I've been thinking about off my chest in a creative way. It helps by giving us somebody who can relate to our problems, to our daily life. For me, it's a therapeutic thing. It helps me get it out there.
What is that “it” specifically?
What's been bothering me for a long time. Let me just push it out there. And, you know, whoever gets it, gets it.
Such as the death of your brother from police brutality in 2014?
What music helped you through that event?
I felt Tupac the most. It was like he was the only person that “got it”. I was listening to his Makaveli record The 7 Day Theory. It gave me the sense of feeling understood. But it also made me realise that certain aspects of this world are just fucked up.
These and related topics, such as grief, death, and self guilt were things that I never cared to express until they started knocking on my door. And I had to answer them at some point.
Answering them – and then becoming whole again, in the process of making music?
Well, on the pursuit of happiness, yes. Taking the frustrations of the world and turning them into something that's beautiful. Music doesn't fix everything, but it is more constructive and less self destructive.
You also openly address the passing of Kobe Bryant. Why did his death hit you so hard?
Because it was so unexpected and unfair. I would have never thought Kobe Bryant would die. I knew the world was shitty when we lost him. He represented that mentality and that drive of doing what you got to do to be the best you could possibly be. And every time you'd see Kobe on that court, he was the Lakers' God.
You mentioned beauty. Melt My Eyez See Your Future really does allow beauty in a lot more than anything else you've done.
Well, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, right? With “Troubles”, the new single off Melt, I did need it to be serious. But I also wanted it to be something that people could just sing. Like little kids hearing a song and remembering the melody.
Whereas in the past, there was just this yelling, the aggressive stuff … and the sadness.
You were certainly channeling your feelings differently on songs like “ULT”, from your 2016 album Imperial.
True, that was pure aggression. Not channelling it the right way.
I think now I channel aggression in a more healthy manner. But at the time, it felt like a power boost. I remember going to the studio, taking a funny ass freestyle, taking the flow and writing to it. Later, I did therapy and once I was finished with it, I could no longer be angry for listeners the same way. But I can still give out and channel energy. This positive energy will be the honey that will draw the flies in.
Especially for this project, the process of channeling can't always have been easy.
That's true. A song like “Melt Session #1” required me to dig deeper than ever before – and I had been digging pretty deep already.
Once I was ready to mine all that stuff out, it was very uncomfortable. It caused me to do some serious self exploration. When it came to the world around me, I could see everything pretty clearly. But when it came to what's inside of me, it was just like: What's real? Who am I to the core?
I read an interview where Rakim said that he will sometimes listen to John Coltrane or any instrumental music and draw something from their flows. Do you think that's happening with you too?
Yeah, for Melt my Eyez, See Your Future, Marvin Gaye helped me out. I remember that when I was making the song “The Last”, I was listening to Marvin Gaye's “Trouble Man”.
And even though I already had created a list of different genres that I wanted to integrate for this project, topicwise, I resonated with What's Going On as well. What he was making on that album was related to the state of the world the way he was looking at it. How every track tied in with every other one made it great.
When you listen to “What's Going On” and you hear these chants - “What's going on, what's going on?” - it sounds like “Walkin” off my album. They use the same kind of instrumental. I wanted to do something that was reminiscent of that - but my version of it.
Inspiration is an overused word. What does it mean to you?
I get inspired by things on a daily basis. I tell people, I'm inspired by life, but really it could be anything in life. I can be inspired by music one day, I can be inspired by a movie. Actually, for this album, I was inspired by movies, Akira Kurosawa films and stuff.
Even The Mandalorian … I got inspired by just watching the finale of that series because Luke Skywalker shows up and I felt like: That's what the rap game needs. They need somebody like this. They need somebody like this to just come through but at the same time, be a force for good. I got inspired by martial artists. The idea of wanting to be the best artist and understanding that everyone is doing their own thing. I gotta do my own thing and make it work for me. That's a martial arts mentality.
Some see hard work as the antithesis to inspiration. You don't seem to agree with that.
I may get insecure at times, and I may be sensitive about my work. But I hold my music in the highest esteem. And I need to believe that that there's nobody that could rival me. As an artist I will always have that pressure so I have to treat music as a 9-5 job. I have to feel like I'm clocking in.
So this interview, me talking to you right now is part of my job, the same way that talking to me is yours. And that's really good. Even when we go to the venue and we do our set, that's clocking in. If I'm late for my job. I don't get paid, the fans are going to be mad. And if nobody comes to my show. I'm maxed out and don't get to pay my bills. I can't put food on my table, I lose my house and I'm homeless.
How do you deal with these existential fears and your own mortality? I sometimes get the impression you're not afraid to die.
Maybe when the moment does come, I will be. But I'm not really too afraid of death right now, no. Not anymore. I used to be because I don't know what happens after. But I know that energy never leaves. So my energy is going to live on, no matter what. If I do die, knock on wood, I hope it's going to happen when I'm old. But as of right now, if I died young at least I left behind some great songs that my nieces and my nephews could fall back on. So I won't be too pressed about it. I already left a legacy behind.