The dingy basement of a frat house may not be the venue of choice for a nice Saturday night concert, but given the nature of this particular concert, the low ceiling and tightly packed quarters served as a suitable setting for what was about to transpire.
The event, a performance by South Florida rapper Denzel Curry at Theta Delta Chi, was organized by the University chapter of Student Hip-Hop Organization. SHHO has put on shows by some of the best rising stars in the game in the past few years, including performances by Kendrick Lamar, Danny Brown and A$AP Rocky. With such a proven track record, it was to be expected that the organization’s choice to bring the 18-year old up-and-comer would prove to be a good one.
Curry recently released “Nostalgic 64” to significant critical praise. The album is centered on a dark, atmospheric vibe characteristic of the Memphis-based sound of early Three 6 Mafia and plays with elements of trap and cloud rap. But although the instrumentals are solid and make the album worth a listen on their own, their primary role here is to underpin Curry’s great lyrics and impeccable flows, both of which heavily anchor each track.
On the whole, “Nostalgic 64” worked as a good introduction to an impressive new talent, and judging from the great turnout at the concert Saturday, Curry has already started to build him a solid fanbase.
The performance was technically flawed — the speakers at the front of the room weren’t putting out any high-register sounds, engulfing the entire room in abstract and watery thumping noises for the whole delay period. Understandably, the energy of the room faltered slightly as a result.
After fiddling with the setup for more than an hour, the organizers fixed the problem and played a few favorites — notably Chief Keef’s “Don’t Like” — through the system, a tactically brilliant way of getting the hype back to a workable level.
Finally, Curry walked onto the stage through a thick wall of purple smoke and started into some stage banter.
“I’m gonna be honest: Virginia sucked the first time I came,” Curry said to boos from the crowd. “But hey, I know y’all are gonna bring it this time.”
Curry then launched into the intense album-opener, “Zone 3.” Low quality speakers made it hard to appreciate the moody atmospherics that made the production of “Nostalgic 64” so great. Still, Curry more than made up for it with his incredible stage presence. The man was able to perform all his lines, even the most rapid, nearly as well as on record and absolutely nailed the solid and unique flows that are crucial to every one of his tracks.
The stage that Curry stood on barely raised him above the crowd, so from the back it was hard to see. But looking at the crowd huddled closely around the stage was almost as entertaining. The audience was insane, feeding off the aggressive power of Curry’s music.
At one point, the moshing got too intense, as a few people fell into Denzel on stage, interrupting him mid-line and stopping the music. Curry recovered effortlessly, though, and blasted through album great “Parents,” the obligatory banger “Talk that S***,” as well as mixtape cut “Twistin,” featuring Richmond native Lil Ugly Mane.
Curry then invited the audience to come on stage and sing along for his final song. The eerie opening bars of “Nostalgic 64”’s biggest single “Threatz” played and the crowd lost it.
It would say it was the sketchiest show I’ve been to, but that sounds like a slight to Curry, who brought everything we could have asked for, and to SHHO, who should be applauded for independently organizing such an event.
It’s not often one gets such an intimate experience with such a fiery, up-and-coming artist. Despite the show’s technical shortcomings, Curry’s charisma and the crowd’s intense energy came together to create an interestingly cohesive experience that was worth every minute.