You always think you’re ready to hear the next output from one of your favorite artists. It’s probably been a couple years. You love everything they’ve put out, though maybe you have your preferences. It’s about time for a new cycle – where’s the songs? COVID seems to have either delayed projects or allowed artists to hyperfixate on them to produce stuff at record (ha) pace. Where’s the songs? Then you get a single out of nowhere, perhaps summoned by your own wishes. You listen, and it’s better than you could have imagined. You get your chance to listen to the full album, and not only does it make the single pale in comparison, but it stands to be the artist’s best output by a fair distance.
This is exactly how I feel about Melt My Eyez, See Your Future.
I can’t hide it – I’m a big Denzel Curry fan. This marks the fourth time I’ve reviewed his work, but my fandom goes back to the Imperial days, when he broke out into an underground stardom and became someone to watch closely. And watch I did. At the risk of sounding parasocial, it’s been such a treat to watch him grow and try new shit throughout the years, impressing with the scope of TA13OO, side-stepping into more straightforward and hard-hitting hit-making territory on ZUU, then making a more laid-back bar-laden project with his producer pal Kenny Beats (who’s becoming wildly popular, nuanced, and sought after in his own right) with Unlocked. What a journey… and that ain’t even the best yet.
Thinking of it more, if Denzel’s on a constant uphill trajectory as I see it, it’s just a matter of how high he can go. Over the years, dude has battled depression, anger, and other personal demons. Melt My Eyez, See Your Future sees Denzel reflecting, taking stock, and apologizing for his past. The first song on here, “Melt Session #1”, has a very self-aware verse on it, talking through his personal progress and laying out some of the harm he’s caused and is regretful of.
‘My temptations are amplified when I get alone
Try to separate the action from the man
I wholeheartedly understand why I need to grow even though I’m grown
If I did you wrong, I’m ’bout to make it right
Judging off appearance, it was said to mean I’m impolite
Eyes remain in freeze mode, I’m stuck in fight-or-flight
I’m deflecting my daily problems within my daily life
Recognize hidden patterns of my own demise
Why I feel like hiding a truth is finding a lie
Dealt with thoughts of suicide, women I’ve objectified
Couldn’t see it through my eyes so for that, I apologize
I’m just hypnotized, working hard to empathize
Strung out on love addiction and groupies when souls collide
I’ve been this way since the day I turned six
I’ve been touched before way before I touched my…‘
It’s a lot to unpack, quick yet enunciated well, which is how I was even able to confidently transcribe those lyrics by ear. It sets a tone straight away that this will not be like Denzel’s other albums, though that much and more was said by the man himself during an IG livestream where he (vaguely) answered some questions about the upcoming album and where his mindset was at for it. The title also starts to make sense the more you listen to “Melt Session #1”. Where Denzel was blind to the troubles around him and ones he directly contributed and gave in to, if you melt away the things that didn’t allow you to see the truth, you can start to see the future – progress, a way forward, repentance, etc. – with your third eye. Perspective is a huge theme throughout Melt My Eyez, See Your Future along with mental health and introspection, all wrapped in a light melding of Western/Far East film (especially Akira Kurosawa) aesthetic that’s compounded greatly by the beautifully fierce visuals for the album.
When it dropped, I knew “Walkin” was going to be a top song of the year; it was one of the best singles I ever heard from Denzel as well. The technical prowess at play here is staggering – @HipHopNumbers has a numerical breakdown, but just listening yourself you can hear how far he’s come at rapping. Wordplay, linking flows, rhymes, theming; it’s all great. “Walkin” is, at least on the surface, about perseverance and circumstance with so many quotables, it’s kind of outrageous. There’s a beat change after the first verse where the track grows some trappy drum feet underneath its sample-heavy, sun-drenched mood, and that’s when Denzel goes off with the hook:
‘Keep on walkin’, ain’t no stoppin’
In this dirty, filthy, rotten
Nasty little world we call our home
They get blickies poppin’
Ain’t no options for my partners
So they resort to scams and robbin’
Take away stress, we ganja coppin’
Blow it all out, it’s all forgotten‘
“Walkin” is a statement; a washed-out, heart-heavy proclamation to keep moving, however you do it. So it’s wild to realize that as you listen to Melt My Eyez, See Your Future, every other song is similarly poised and given massive form to be just as memorable as “Walkin”, some even more so. It’s far from by-the-numbers – there’s so many different producers on here that have different strengths and approaches to hip-hop and how they choose to complement Denzel’s equally varied wordsmithing poured out from his heart. Truly, no song sounds like another, and it’s almost jarring to see how it all comes together in the end making a functionally flawless record that I can’t even nitpick about.
Denzel made a big deal of not rapping like he has before on this album, and yeah, I see the nuance in that statement, but don’t throw away the Denzel Curry rulebook quite yet. He still keeps things familiar for fans, just pushing the throttle to its apex. “Sanjuro” is one of my favorite songs on here because it tastefully calls back to his Florida-branded Black Metal Terrorist flows from Imperial and TA13OO with a lot more polish. The beat is hard-bodied, armored to withstand Denzel’s double-time rapping and grimy lyrics comparing himself to King Ghidorah and about the reality of gritty South Florida life where watching your back while making your moves is a must, lest you end up dead or in prison. With a hook from 454, the song just drips charm, and the bass will knock your fucking jaw loose if you’re not careful. Shoutout to CardoGotWings for this beat, the hardest one on this album.
“Mental” really shakes things up, though. It has a soulful framework for Denzel to rap over, and a melodic assist from Bridget Perez throughout the track carries it with care to the end for Saul Williams to lay down some poignant spoken word, something that goes hand-in-hand with hip-hop as a whole. Denzel’s an artist first, made evident with bars about probably being a scat singer if he lived in the 1940s for that creative outlet through which to strain the passion he has and process emotions. “The Ills” is a jazz-based number that sees the Carol City rapper close out the album with more self-reflection as the beat gets chopped up a bit, gradually becoming an old head’s dream, delectable samples and understated turntablism (there’s some of this on “Worst Comes To Worst” as well) adding accents to the song.
Melt My Eyez, See Your Future feels like an album in love with hip-hop and all its extensions and sources, not losing its own identity with throwback pandering or spinning it so fast it threatens to lose that genre label – just something by fans for fans, incorporating jazz, soul, drum and bass, experimental, and more mainline hip-hop flavors relevant to Denzel. I cannot, and will not, understate how bar-heavy this album is. He is in peak form here, making reference to other rappers (‘Run the jewels ’cause I kill a mic on any LP‘; ‘Don’t let the three six turn to a nine, wait, let me rewind/Don’t let three six hypnotize minds‘), atoning for and recognizing his faults and past (‘I started in a nightmare so pinch me, I’m dreamin’/I’m killin’ all my demons ’cause my soul’s worth redeemin’‘; ‘I dedicate this to the ones I hurt/It’s time to get my spirit right on earth/Before my sins become an evil curse‘), and so much more, filling that role of a lyrical rapper while coloring the lines in between with an honesty and realness thankfully becoming more commonplace these days.
As I wrap up this review, I feel a dense pang foreshadowing the inevitable regret I will have after turning this in for editing: ‘Shit, I didn’t cover this song‘, ‘Fuck, I forgot to quote this awesome line.‘ I want to talk about every facet of this album – I can’t. I want to spoil all the cool references and lines that I found – I shouldn’t. I think one of my favorite parts of listening to Melt My Eyez, See Your Future was catching those little things and smiling hugely upon the realization, or audibly going ‘ooooh‘ when a good bar graced my ears only for my mom to inquisitively return a ‘hmm?‘. You wouldn’t get it, mom.
Denzel’s been hungry his whole career, and with Melt My Eyez, See Your Future he’s finally eating his fill to astonishing effect while exhibiting personal growth that will bring him so much farther than he may realize. Therapeutic, if you will. Although the general public just got privy to when this album will drop, I’ve had it in my possession for weeks. Not a flex, but a supportive statement and justification for what I’m about to say. This is one of the best records I’ve heard in years, definitely the best in his catalog, and certainly something that should endure well to the end of the year for those awesome lists we and others make. I can’t wait to dissect it further. I can’t wait to see what Denzel and his creative friends build for the media surrounding the album. I can’t wait to see how much others like it so we can all talk about it together and give Denzel Curry his flowers while he can still smell them. He is, unequivocally, one of the best rappers out right now, my personal favorite, and Melt My Eyez, See Your Future is on the shortlist for modern classics as far as I’m concerned.
Artist photo by Adrian Villagomez