‘Soundcloud rap’ star Denzel Curry channels punk energy

Denzel Curry
Renata Raksha
Denzel Curry

When rapper Denzel Curry played the Middle East last October on a double-bill with hardcore punk band Show Me the Body, his fired-up performance incited even more mosh pits and crowd-surfing than the punks; he even spit a verse while hanging upside down from the ceiling pipes. It’s that youthful, aggro energy that has made “SoundCloud rap,” the movement spearheaded by Curry and his South Florida peers and named for the streaming site where they post their music, hip-hop’s latest underground-to-mainstream phenomenon.

On his ambitious new album “TA13OO,” Curry manages the difficult feat of growing artistically without sacrificing what first made him so exciting, balancing the melodic choruses and soul-searching lyrics of “Black Balloons” and “Clout Cobain” with more mosh-friendly bangers like “Sumo” and “Switch It Up.” The Globe spoke with Curry in between stops on his current tour, which touches down in Boston for a soldout Paradise Rock Club show Wednesday.

Q. How would you describe “SoundCloud rap” to someone who’s never heard of the genre?


A. A lot of distorted bass really, SoundCloud rap is just anything with expression. We’re expressing ourselves through references to anime and things like that, but SoundCloud music is just music that happens to be on SoundCloud.

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Q. You’re only 23, but you’re already an influential, significant figure in your scene. Do you still think of yourself as an up-and-coming rapper, or do you feel more like a veteran?

A. I’m a veteran at this point; I ain’t no up-and-coming rapper. Up-and-coming been happened. I’m just an artist.

Q. You’ve toured with punk bands and perform with a very punk-like energy. What is it about punk rock that appeals to you?

A. It’s basically the energy itself. If you take the words they’re saying, and you put it to a rap beat, it’s basically rap. It’s the same thing; it’s just got a different instrumental around it. That’s why I gravitated to punk, because it’s not [that distant from] rap itself, or what I do. I like the way punk people perform better than rappers, because rappers suck at performing — no offense.


Q. What inspired you to experiment so much with your sound on “TA13OO”?

A. I just wanted to show people that I was really versatile and that I could do anything, because everybody was trying to stick me to the whole [2015 single] “Ultimate” thing, like, “He’s yelling the lines” and everything like that. Also, everything that was going on in my life and all the stories that I was hearing from everyone else’s lives, I was just putting it all together. That’s what made me really focus and write this album the way I did.

Q. You’ve said that “TA13OO” has three parts: light, gray, and dark. What do the different sections mean to you?

A. The light part is basically about luxury, happiness, and cash — talking about the light at the end of the tunnel. The gray part is the reality check, when fame dies down and the real problems [reemerge]. The black part is just me not giving a [expletive] and going stupid.

Q. For the album cover and the “Clout Cobain” video, you’ve adopted this sort of goth-clown face paint. What made you want to change up your look?


A. It’s all an art piece. The face paint is based off black metal culture; I wanted to do something very bizarre for the cover and videos for this album.

Interview was edited and condensed. Terence Cawley can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @terence_cawley