It’s hard to take gangsta rap seriously in 2013. When the game’s toughest, most intimidating guy is a 5’2″ kid who just turned 18 threatening to shoot up a playground, it might be a sign things have gone a little soft. Last month Florida rapper Spaceghostpurrp went back and forth on Twitter with 16 year old Swedish rapper Yung Lean, ending his string of abuse with “i wanna make you commit suicide CRACKA JACK”. If the rap game were baseball, SGP just threw an underhanded lob in a game already filled with slow pitches and walks.
Enter ex-Raider Klan affiliated Denzel Curry. The Floridian has been working on the fringes of SGP’s crew for a few years now, appearing here and there as guest on clan tracks and dropping a few unnoticed mixtapes. He’s since left Raider Klan on his own terms. Up until now, there hasn’t been too much of an official release per se, until this week’s somewhat misleadingly-titled Nostalgic 64. You’d think with a name like that we’d be hearing golden era boom-bap beats and references to Banjo Kazooie and Are You Afraid of the Dark? but part of the fun of Nostalgia 64 is that subversion of expectations.
The album’s production is dark, gritty, and ferocious, with beat credits from unheard of producers like Freebase, POSHstronaut, and Lofty305. It’s got a sinister edge to it that never feels too reliant on referencing the past. There are flickering piano melodies, rapid-fire trap hi-hats, and codiene-soaked chopping and screwing. Odd Future rapper Mike G shows up on “Mystical Virus Pt. 3: The Scream” with underrated Richmond, VA rapper Lil Ugly Mane for a demonic murder-spree set to a thumping beat.
“Dark & Violent” stays true to its name, opening with a shrill beat punctuated with gunshots before a short interlude of a robbery-in-progress before the beat flips and Miami MC Nell and Curry drop possibly the best two verse sequence in hip-hop this year. There’s a little bit of everything on Nostalgic 64, from “N64″‘s Trayvon Martin political undertones, to the wide-eyed gospel soul bounce of “Like Me”, to the turned up thrash of “Zone 3” that promises “If you survive homicide drive-by / They’ll leave you with nubs like the Powerpuff Girls”. Is it an empty threat? Most likely. Legitimate psychopaths rarely have time to put out records. But after hearing Curry admit “I’ve been shot, burned and stabbed and still ain’t deceased / I carry the mark of the beast” I have to admit I look over my shoulder a little bit more often lately.
Nostalgic 64 is out now. Stream it below.