Miami traffic is a bitch. It has provided South Floridians a never-ending excuse to be late because construction on the 826 will likely come to an end the day Donald Trump reveals his true skin tone. But we’re on our way. And like most Miami drivers with five minutes left to get to work, Denzel Curry hasn’t arrived yet. He’s on the exit ramp, still on his way.
It’s been nearly three years since his breakout Nostalgic 64 was released and it still holds weight. It will most likely be heralded as a Miami classic in years to come if you’re of the mindset that it is not already.
But what more is there to know about Denzel Curry? Interview after interview continues to peddle the narrative that Curry is up to bat next for Miami. Still, he remains in the dugout. With 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms and Imperial now under his belt, along with numerous overseas stops and the stamp of approval from Rick Ross, is he finally getting off the exit ramp to success?
Curry took some time to speak to us before he comes home to perform what will be his only Miami show for a while. We talked to the Carol City rapper about meeting Andre 3000 and collaborating with Ronny J, SpaceGhostPurrp, and Rick Ross.
You met and talked to Andrew 3000 at his Art Basel event a couple of years ago. What was it about the conversation that changed your mindset?
I just asked him what kept him afloat or how he kept going, and what did he do to stay relevant. And he was like, “I got bored.” It was the simplest answer I could’ve got from an artist. And he was like, “Don’t get bored. The moment you get bored you’re going to stop having fun.” Ever since then I changed my hair style, changed the way I was thinking, and that’s when I became Ultimate Denzel Curry.
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Did he know who you were?
No — did not know who I was. I told him I did a song with Big Rube. He was like, “Oh shit! Who are you? What’s your name?” I was like, “My name is Denzel Curry. You may not know me, but you’re going to hear about me one day.” He was like, “Fa sho.” And that’s what it was.
You cried that night when you got home, right?
Yes! Yes, I did cry when I got home.
Because when you meet your idol and he’s cool as shit and he gives you wise words and inspiration — that’s some shit, bro. That is some shit, and I had to cry because I will never have a chance like that again. And I get to tell my kids I met Andre 3000. I met one of my idols, and he was cool as hell.
But you were also going through some personal things at that time as well.
Yeah, it was 2014. It was a very emotional year for me because my brother died that year.
How are you mentally and emotionally now?
Mentally, emotionally — I’m stable, because everything that happened for the past two years — 2014, 2015 — all that just helped me grow. It can either make you or break you. So I didn’t let it break me. I had to cut off everything and just focus on what I got to do, because when I become sad I become depressed. I’ll die.
What’s the relationship like with you and Ronny J?
Ronny’s my brother first and foremost. Me and him and Posh, Mark — we all built this shit. Mainly me and Mark, but the relationship between me and Ronny, that’s my brother. When I was going through that tough time in my life, my relationships, dealing with my brother’s death and everybody coming at me, he was there and all of C9 was there. Me and him literally sat in that house and was getting up every morning grinding to make some shit. Then we’ll take it to Mark and Rees, and then we’ll enhance the beats and shit — build around them. And that’s how Imperial was created.
Why did you make Imperial just 10 songs?
Because it doesn’t make room for error. There’s not really any bad songs. If I was going to give y’all a great project after Nostalgia 64 it had to be short, sweet and to the point. And this album was the simplest concept ever, and I went back to my roots at the same time.
Is it important that you sign to a major label?
No. I like being independent, though. I just like doing my own thing. If I am going to sign to some major label, it’s got to be a benefit to me, and it’s got to be the right things, not something that I’m going to regret later on. So, I don’t really care because I know what they want from me and I know what I want from them. If they give it to me easy then I know they’re going to change it. If I work for it then I know they’re not going to change because it’s already working.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned over the last few years?
People are going to hate you for whatever you do — whatever you do. And people don’t know what they want until you give it to them. And you got to keep to yourself most times. Learn how to separate the real supporters from your fans. And keep faith. Always have faith in yourself. Believe in yourself. Believe in what you do.
What went wrong with your friendship with SpaceGhostPurpp?
Just got mental issues, honestly. He trying me; I didn’t try him. And the fact that I left, even though that was the biggest decision I made. The moment I left is the moment I stood out. And I just wanted to be independent. I’m a very independent person. And I was still going to rep until things got kind of sour. I just didn’t want to beef with anyone.
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What were your conversations like with Rick Ross?
Funny. Nah, he was a very straight-up dude. Ross is a very straight-up dude considering both of us are the same sign. We understand each other like crazy. He's a real cool dude, man. I don’t have nothing bad to say about Ross, man.
How did your collaboration on “Knotty Head” come to be?
Well, Sam Sneak was like, 'Yo, the big homie want to talk to you.' I was like, 'Who’s the big homie?' He was like, 'You’ll see.' And then he called me. And when Sam Sneak called me he put Ross on the phone. Me and him was talking, and he told me who he was. He was like, “We need to get up.” And then we ended up getting up at Café Iguanas. I ran into my cousin because my cousin Scrilla is signed to MMG. He was like, 'Little cuz, what you doing here?' I was like, 'I got invited by Ross. I already know what you’re doing here because you’re signed to him.'
He met up with me and Ronny, and he was telling us be organized — don’t spend your money and waste it. Stay away from airplane fools. That type of shit. After that I dropped “Knotty Head” and I sent it to him. I was like, 'Hit me up if you like it.' And he liked the shit. I was like, 'I want you on the remix.' He was like, 'Say no more. I’ma have it to you in a day.' And he sent it to me the next day and then we ended up putting it on the album. And he sent me a song, and I’m going to do that, so be on the look out for another Ross-Denzel feature.
2055: The Ult Experience with Denzel Curry, Allan Kingdom, and more. 6 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at the North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami; 305-672-5202; rhythmfoundation.com. Tickets cost $16 to $20 via eventbrite.com.