Denzel Curry @ Middle East Downstairs

by Spencer LaChance

Denzel Curry @ Middle East Downstairs

Denzel Curry
featuring Na’kel Smith, Illegal Civilization, and Show Me the Body

October 1st, 2017 @ Middle East Downstairs

By: Spencer LaChance

Despite the 8pm-sharp start time that was advertised, a mysterious character took the stage and started playing Tyler, the Creator’s ‘Trashwang’ about half an hour late. I didn’t recognize him as a member of Odd Future, and I assumed he wasn’t when he revealed himself as a skater-turned-rapper and started playing his mediocre, original music. After a quick Shazam, I discovered he was Na’kel Smith who, as it turns out, is one of the seven artists featured on ‘Trashwang’. I don’t think I’ll ever go out of my way to listen to his music, but both him and the venue’s DJ provided enough bangers to get the crowd hyped for the main acts.

The first “main act” was a short film shown by skating collective, Illegal Civilization, who sponsored the show. After a series of non-stop bangers, all the sweaty people in the crowd were ready to sit down and experience the story of a young skater romance projected on an inflatable screen. I found it pretty entertaining, especially the cameos from Odd Future icons, Tyler, the Creator and Jasper as well as Aminé. The abrupt ending threw me off a bit, but I was ready for the music to start anyway.

Hardcore band, Show Me the Body, took the stage immediately after the film. They were more well-received than I expected; the kids were happy as long as they could mosh. The crowd was constantly moving, even during the slow songs. I did hear a kid say, “I thought we were going to a rap concert,” right on cue, but most people adapted to the genre switch well. It was rad, and with bare lighting during the performance, the basement we were in seemed even grimier and more DIY. At one point, an Illegal Civ cardboard cutout found itself crowd-surfing across the room and had to be fished out by security. The band was appreciative of the crowd’s energy as they walked off the stage, leaving us with a short break before the act of the night.

Denzel Curry’s first song, ‘Zone 3,’ set the energy level high, and it remained there for the rest of the show. His setlist was relentless, featuring bangers from his first mixtape, Nostalgia 64, last year’s Imperial, and this year’s 13 EP with a few new songs sprinkled here and there. I was pleased to see that Curry isn’t one of those rappers who plays their full songs with vocals through the speakers while giving a half-assed live performance over it. Curry rapped live over his instrumentals with the same ferocity that can be heard on the studio versions of this songs.

Towards the end of the set he took a break from his own music and switched to some Smokepurpp and Lil Pump, still rapping through most of it. During the latter, he threw on his clout goggles and combined them with his dreads that he kept tied up into a foot-long spike; it was quite the spectacle. Afterwards, he orchestrated a huge cyclone mosh pit and dropped Mr. Carmack’s ‘nell’, a remix of a song that Curry himself is featured on. Once that was over, he signed a record from the crowd and gave the owner a hug, showing there’s a different side to Curry than his dark lyrics might suggest. Lastly, he played ‘Equalizer,’ his claim to fame ‘Ultimate’ which was lit beyond belief, one more new song, and that was it. He walked off the stage with no encore and everyone went home to take a shower.

Seeing Denzel Curry live was exactly what I expected: Curry yelling fast lyrics into the mic while the crowd jumps around to booming instrumentals. The variety of opening activities were more unexpected, but everything culminated together into a very fun show.