Welcome to Hit Or Miss, our new weekly column where we cover as many new rap tapes, albums, EPs, and projects from the week as we can. Some are good, others, not so much, but remember – honesty is the best policy.
Denzel Curry – 32 Zel / Planet Mushrooms
Every rapper should try to spit as well as Denzel Curry spits. After breaking from Raider Klan, the Carol City MC released the well-rounded Nostalgic 64, but it felt a bit by-the-numbers, like there was a spunkier personality behind the Three 6 Mafia and DJ Screw influences. His improvement on his new album is immediately apparent from the opening “32 Ave Intro,” an anthem you can imagine blaring at protests around the country. He’s out of his shell and now more comfortable with cultivating a unique sound from his roots. He couldn’t have written a song as beautiful as “Delusional Shone” in 2013, nor one that incorporates Outkast’s sound as seamlessly.
Denzel is a little more comfortable with his voice now, and instead of going outside his comfort zone, he dives deeper into the complexities of his own sound, pulling out a head-back hook on “Envy Me” followed by the mosh stimulator “Ultimate.” The album, technically split between two EPs, is quite simply the best project of Curry’s career so far. He’s found a sound that continues to blossom while never straying from its dark, bass-heavy core. For Christ’s sake, he got Big Rube on an intro. The kid is doing great things. – Max Weinstein
Best Songs: “Ice Age,” “Past the Wudz Intro,” “Void”
Trouble – #ZayDidIt
This is the fourth mixtape Zaytoven has produced in full this year, after Future’s Beast Mode, OG Maco’s OGZay, and Young Scooter’s Juggathon, and it makes clear Zay’s mission: to never work with a wack rapper. Trouble is one of the most consistent rappers to rise out of the Atlanta scene in recent years (I think of him and Alley Boy in tandem), and though #ZayDidIt might show traces of Future’s influence, you’d be hard pressed to find a Southern artist who doesn’t in 2015.
Still, Trouble has a knack for catchy songs and fluid flows, as the 12-track mixtape never lags across 35 minutes. Guests like Bankroll Fresh, Judo, YFN Lucci, and B Green add flair to the proceedings, but it’s ultimately Trouble’s snaking delivery and Zaytoven’s honey-trap production that makes #ZayDidIt a great listen. – MW
Best Songs: “Wet,” “Don’t Panic,” “U Don’t Know”
Erk Tha Jerk – Airplane Mode
Comparisons are odious, but if we had to describe Erk Tha Jerk we’d probably use his own breakdown: the laid back melody of Devin The Dude mixed with Eminem’s lyricism and topped off with Jigga and Kanye’s ability to make it cool for the masses. It’s a somewhat strange mix, but the Bay Area is a hidden master of his own sound on his new album Airplane Mode.
As a follow-up to his stunning 2014 album Junk Food & Vegetables, Airplane Mode is lighter, less anchored, and more spread out. There’s the hybrid sound of “All The Time,” which needles California synths into East Coast chops, the dusky soul of “Callin,” which gets a pimping by Too Short, or “Diamond,” which sounds like looking up at the sky on a starry night when you’re on acid. While his last album was heavier conceptually, Erk told me Airplane Mode is inspired by traveling with his homeboys, meeting a lot of chicks, and smoking weed.The production by Fly Commons, Bizzness Boi, Ekzakt, and others is way better than a project with this low a profile should have, but once you listen, you’ll be glad you gave it a chance. – MW
Best Songs: “All The Time,” “So Amazing,” “Art Of War”