Name: Denzel Rae Don Curry
DOB: 16 February 1995
Place of birth: Carol City, Florida, United States
Denzel, a comment on one of your latest performance videos says that you’ve changed a lot in recent years for the best, that you seem at peace mentally. Would you say that’s true?
Yeah, I mean, if you look at my old interviews, I'm trying to put on a happy face, but I wasn't really happy. I was in a dark spot, I was in one of those places with a dark, deep depression. And the thing that brought me out of that, that made the biggest change was going to therapy a lot. Like, a lot of therapy, two years’ worth of therapy! Half the time I’m sitting there thinking, “I don’t wanna hear this…” But then what she says ends up being right, so I have to suck it up.
Time and experience can also be powerful forces for change.
Yes, I'm 27 now. When I turned 25, that's when I was like, “Damn, I'm in the middle of my age and I’ve really got to get my life sorted out.” And I notice the difference in my music because I couldn’t have made an album like Melt My Eyez See Your Future back then. I can make it now because I have that emotional intelligence, but I couldn’t have made it two years ago. My earlier music, everybody always says that it’s so aggressive and it’s loud and it’s in your face. This album was totally the opposite of that because I took all the stuff that I was working on in therapy, and my day to day life, and just put it all together in this one album.
“Now I’m fueled by several other different kinds of emotions; joy, happiness on a good day, everything, whereas before it was only either sadness or anger.”
It’s true that your earlier songs are fairly aggressive in comparison, not only in their production but also in their lyrics.
When I got angry, it was fueling me! Now I’m fueled by several other different kinds of emotions, joy, happiness on a good day, everything, whereas before it was only either sadness or anger. It may still come off like I’m suffering, but I’m working through that. Everything is personal, you know, I want to connect with people in that way.
Is it ever scary or challenging to be so open with your feelings in the hip hop world, which isn’t always so sympathetic to these topics?
Yeah, but you do it anyway because you gotta have that connection. It’s like, if I talk about this stuff, people might be like, “Oh, he’s boring now, I don't relate to him now because he's trying to get self help.” You know what I mean? If the biggest rapper in the world got self help, nobody would like him. People don’t want to hear about a healed person!
Mykki Blanco says that it’s only recently they have been able to write about their life in their songs — but that it’s been fulfilling because the experiences they're writing about actually are universal.
Yeah, I mean, a lot of artists, even filmmakers put their personal life into their characters. Have you ever seen this movie called The Art of Self-Defense? It’s by this guy called Riley Stearns, and if you look at the character that Jesse Eisenberg plays, it’s really just an exaggerated version of who Riley Sterns is. That’s been an inspiration for me in terms of how he tells his own story through film… So of course I would rather put these thoughts into a song, because it is hard to tell people what you’re going through. Songs make you want to feel something. That's why artists get so much praise, because we are able to take the human experience and the human emotion and channel it in such a way that you have no choice but to jump out of your seat, or feel it, or cry. If I can evoke an emotion out of you, then that means I've done my job very well.
Can you give me an example where you felt you really accomplished that?
That was the whole purpose of me making songs like “Walking,” making songs like “Troubles.” If you listen to the lyrics on “Troubles,” that’s just regular stuff that people go through. I’ve seen it. I'm trying to give you something that you can relate to, and that way you can feel like, “Okay, I'm not alone. I can keep going.” So I’m just writing from the human experience, from my human experience.
What other aspects of your everyday life have you been surprised to find yourself inspired by artistically?
Theater has actually been a big inspiration for me because recently I went to a few shows with my cousin, and he’s a ballet teacher. It was like another world, there’s so much emotion and so much movement. The set up, the soundtrack… One of the shows we went to even used a Busta Rhymes sample in the score, and that really caught my attention. The staging was also incredible, and it was really important to the show as a whole, and that’s something I’ve also been thinking about in terms of my work, because it can’t just be about the beat or the lyrics, it has to be about the cover art, the set of my concerts, the whole thing.
You’ve been rapping since you were in the sixth grade… How else has your musical world evolved since then?
The thing is that the music I became known for wasn't the music I was making initially. Before I joined Raider Klan, I was trying to emulate guys like Kid Cudi and Tyler, The Creator, and Lupe Fiasco. Lupe and Kid Cudi, I bought their albums and they were with me from the end of the middle school to the beginning of my high school life. Going to see shows from some of those artists, that really changed my life. So I was trying to make shit like them, but it wasn’t hitting, and I ended up finding my footing in a different style.
What was it like starting out as a rapper at such a young age?
When I told people I wanted to start rapping, everybody was laughing at me because I didn't look like a rapper. Now everybody's like, “Oh, he was serious!” (Laughs) But I was just consistent. I just kept doing it and kept working at it. Even now, when I listen to my past albums, I’m always trying to see what I can take away from them, what I can do better lyrically. And now with my music, every track on this album was meant to be there. So I have no regrets.