Floridian rapper Denzel Curry has been one of the most promising hip-hop artists to come out in the past few years with an aggressive triplet flow in his rapping and a slew of projects going back to 2011 before getting picked to be in the 2016 XXL Freshman List. He’s one of the two people on that list whose work I have enjoyed in the past (and yes, you already know the 2nd one if you listen to Decibel Boost), but he was blowing up during that time-frame with both Imperial and an EP 13 in 2017. Thus, Taboo (or TA 13OO) came into fruition. Now going into this album, we learned that it would be divided into 3 acts (or basically 3 EPs) with Act 1 being Light, Act 2 being Gray and of course, Act 3 being Dark. So this is basically a triple EP or just a regular-sized album with an reasonable amount of tracks and time with 13 tracks all in 43 minutes.
And yes, 13 is a big factor in this. His last EP was called 13, the title here has 13 replacing the B, and TA1300 is 13 tracks.
However, the release strategy was weird because the first acts were released on streaming services on Wednesday and Thursday before the album’s official release on July 27th.
Let’s go into…..
ACT 1: LIGHT
This act with 4 tracks represents the melodic and soulful side of Curry but lets it be known this isn’t “light-hearted” in case that might confuse you. This act starts out with the title track “TA13oo,” and there is a bit of irony here as the first line of the chorus is:
Welcome to the darker side of taboo
All I’ve got is permanent scars and tattoos
Take another step in the path that you choose
Make a bad choice in your path then you lose
Yes, this was on the “Light” side. This track touches on molestation, mainly that he discusses the relationship he had with this woman who suffered sexual abuse when she was young, how she was emotionally distant, and how he offers to make her feel better, whether it be a shoulder to cry on, to pray with, and yes: the idea of sex at that.
“13LACK 13ALLOONZ” is the next track and first off, wow. This is a very wavy and smooth jam we didn’t expect from him like at all, with Twelve’len on the hook and a featured verse from Goldlink, who’s actually fitted into production like this ,and there is definitely some IT references from:
What’s said from Pennywise, I guess we all float and let it float, let it float….you get the rest.
“CAZH MAN1AC” has this one line of that caught my attention with his use of wordplay:
“That’s me at my lowest, no Peter Griffin”
“ZUMO” is a damn good highlight with Curry on his insane flow and these insane references in there from Avatar: The Last Airbender (Curry get the flame, call a nigga Prince Zuko) and yes, for the first time in hip-hop history, Chowder is referenced!
ACT 2: GREY
Now we go into “Grey” territory (or the middle part), and we start this out with “ZUPER ZA1YAN ZUPERMAN” and once again, he’s got the flow of a current Super Saiyan….if Goku had bars, and he still continues that with “Switch It Up” where he goes on about bipolar disorder and paranoia, but that’s one track that does it. The other is the previously released single “CLOUT COBAIN” where he touches on getting clout and how people sabotage themselves, going through trends and other things in order to stay popular, even if it messes you up creatively.
“MAD I GOT IT” has one of the best choruses on here as Denzel spits out:
Big cheese pilin’ (big cheese pilin’)
You speed dialin’, you talk shit
But I keep smilin’ (I keep smilin’)
That’s your chick, but not my chick
Cause she got mileage (she got mileage)
At your head, but not my head
Cause I drop knowledge (I drop knowledge)
You glad when I never had shit
But mad I got it (mad I got it)
That track centers on envy and distrust, as someone in that perspective is mad that another person is getting that success, and some will suck up to him to get that success. On the surface level, it does sound like a typical “don’t trust these hoes” anthem, but that’s far from that as the 3rd verse speaks more on a perspective of being pissed at the government for….well, a lot of things, and “Z1RENZ | SIRENS” focuses on the current state of America and the struggles within it such as police brutality, gun violence and other social commentary with some backing vocals on the hook from Billie Eilish and a guest verse from another rapper that’s getting my interest as of late, J.I.D.
And now the final act:
ACT 3: DARK
Now we get to the darkest part of this (in terms of production), and this goes harder than ever. This part touches on subject matter such as his family life (including his brother who was tased to death by police) on “THE 13LACKEZT 13ALLOON (The Blackest Balloon),” and that also includes how people are still on Xanax and pills even if one of their favorite rappers died because of that lifestyle. “PERCS” is another joint where Denzel takes shots at the current rap industry and how most rappers just get by using fire beats but lazy content, continuing that topic from past songs in the album:
On Tree, I do not fuck with the percs, I barely fuck with the Earth
On me, industry niggas the worst, actin’ like they from the dirt
On me, I do not fuck with the percs, I barely fuck with the Earth
On Tree, all of them niggas I birth, tryna put me in a hearse
JPEGMafia and ZillaKami makes an appearance on the next to last track “VENGEANCE,” and they, along with Denzel, go extra hard on this track with Peggy referencing this one line from Kanye West’s “We Don’t Care” —
and his verse around the whole Pusha T/Drake beef had me going wild on this. “Dark” closes it out with “BLACK METAL TERRORIST | 13 MT,” and it’s basically him going on how he’s the GOAT rapper.
Now with all that said, did I enjoy this project? Hell, yeah, I really enjoyed this project, and it’s another hip-hop album that is a contender of my best-of list. Everything about this album shows why Denzel Curry is a rapper that deserves praise, especially for this album with subject matter that’s very abundant and naturally dark and mature and the varied, diverse production that absolutely delivers on every aspect of the song. While some might think some references thrown in there were forced or corny (personally I thought it was funny in some of them), that’s fine, as the rest of the album is enjoyable and has a lot of replay value in the end.
FINAL VERDICT: Welcome to the darker side of TA13oo. It’s an album worth your time going into.
TA13oo (or TABOO) is available from Loma Vista Recordings on CD, LP, Digital Download and streaming services