In celebration of Denzel Curry’s Imperial drop yesterday (listen here), we’re revisiting our interview with him from October of last year. On the album, he told Hypetrak, “Imperial is me attempting to reach my ultimate form and to introduce a lifestyle of truth to my fans, be honest with yourself and you will grow, ULT.” Catch him next week at SXSW or during his first headlining tour across the U.S. beginning this month.
Four years is a long time in rap music. When Denzel Curry was a (relatively) fresh-faced 16-year-old, he dubbed himself “King of the Mischievous South.” He’s 20 now, dreadlocked, and hardened by a premature overexposure to the business side of rap. The ensuing four years have perhaps slightly dulled his enthusiasm for his crown, but no successor to the throne has emerged. There are Southerners Curry’s age who rap—none can claim to have eclipsed Carol City’s Aquarius Killa. His 2013 album, Nostalgic 64, was one of the year’s best and was treated as such. This year’s 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms has flown under the radar through no fault of its own; Atlanta has sucked nearly every ounce of critical attention into its gravitational field, and Curry’s suffered for it. If there’s any hard feelings, they don’t show. Curry has his own fiefdom to worry about.
Who, or what, inspires your drawings?
Everything. My mind, how I feel in this present day. Dragonball-Z and all that.
Do you read comics?
I’ve been reading comics since I was a kid. I used to steal comic books from the library.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Telekinesis, so I could pick up shit with my mind, use my mind to read other people’s thoughts so I could know what do.
I saw on your Instagram you listen to Metallica.
Yeah, I got Master of Puppets and Ride the Lightning. I was at Best Buy one day, and I was buying albums—Stankonia, 2pac albums, and I saw those and was like, “Yo, this shit look hard as fuck!” I picked it up, started listening to it, and it’s crazy. I was watching Terminator at the time, and it had the same feel.
Is part of the appeal the album art?
Yeah. Master of Puppets is straight—it’s just a bunch of crosses, anyone could do that—but Ride the Lightning has lightning and [an] electric chair. It’s raw. It just has a crazy feeling.
Do you encourage moshing at your shows?
I encourage people to do a lot of shit. Not only moshing. Moshing is just the tip of the iceberg. I encourage them to do it because it helps them break out of their shells. I want everybody to move, because if you’re moving, you’re gonna have fun. Don’t be afraid to get crazy.
How’d you get the nickname “Aquarius Killa”?
‘Cuz I was born February 16, so that makes me an Aquarius. “Killa”? I just like killing shit when it comes to rap. It rolled off my tongue and sounded raw.
Do you believe in Astrology?
I’m a firm believer in astrology. There are signs I don’t get along with, signs that are meant for me, [and] signs that think like me, but that aren’t just like me.
What are some signs you don’t get along with?
Scorpios. They’re just evil. Every Scorpio that I’ve encountered has been evil. They have fuckboy tendencies. Some are cool, though. My mom’s a Scorpio, but she has a lot of Scorpio tendencies. My older brother too. I don’t have a choice but to love them, ‘cuz they’re my family. Outside of that, I don’t fuck with Scorpios.
What about Pisces?
I fuck with Pisces. I know how to get money with Pisces. Every Pisces I encounter has been somewhat cool.
“[ANDRE 3000] SAID ‘DON’T GET BORED,’ AND THE MOMENT I DIDN’T GET BORED, I STARTED HAVING FUN WITH IT.”
Do you read your horoscope?
Not every day, but I read it from time to time. [Astrology’s] not just horoscopes—it deals with stars, the universe, what time you were born, and how you were raised.
How’d you get the name Raven Miyagi?
Honestly, SpaceGhostPurrp wrote it on my page. Back when me and Simmie were in Raider Klan, we were a group called Black Raven. Nell was part of the group, too, but he wasn’t in Raider Klan at the time. Because I had “Miyagi” on my Facebook, and I told [SpaceGhostPurrp] about Black Raven, he called me “Raven Miyagi.” I was like “That’s hard.” I just created a whole universe out of it, and created King of the Mischievous South 1996.
Would you say that Raven Miyagi is a different person than Denzel Curry?
All my personalities are Denzel Curry. They’re just different parts of me. Aquarius Killa is sharper than Raven Miyagi, but Miyagi’s content is based on the reality of things.
You said in an interview with Complex that you thought Future breaking up with Ciara made him more powerful. What do you think of his mixtape with Drake?
Honestly, it was mediocre. I like Drake and Future–”Back to Back” is hard, and DS2 is great, especially with all the other tapes. When I listen to What a Time to Be Alive, I can only pick a handful of tracks. “Plastic Bag,” “Jersey,” “30 for 30,” “Jumpman,” and “Diamonds Dancing” are my favorites. I even tweeted a couple tracks that I fuck with.
Have you heard Slime Season yet?
Not yet, but I heard the song with him and Gucci Mane, and that was fire.
Would you wanna work with Gucci Mane in the future?
Hell fuck yeah! Nigga’s live!
Is he your favorite rapper from Atlanta?
I’d say he’s one of them. My brother put me up on him when he was doing the No Pad, No Pencil shit, when he was working with Hood Affairs. I’m gonna keep it real, I’m not gonna be no dick ridin’ ass nigga: I didn’t fuck with his shit at first. When my brother went to college, I just started bumping it, and I realized [his] shit’s live as fuck. When you’re young you don’t really understand shit—he’s raw as fuck, and he put a lot of niggas on.
What do you think of Lil Ugly Mane semi-retiring?
I’ve said what I had to say about it. I wish he didn’t give it up. I understand. I see why he took a hiatus. He was pretty much about to blow up—everyone saw it—he just chose not to take that route. He killed the game, got his money, and got out. I respect him for that. I’ll always respect him because he’s a true artist.
Did you try getting him on 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms?
I tried. Last time I talked to him, he sent me some of his new shit. I’m not gonna let people know when he’s gonna release it. I’m not saying he’s coming back, either, he just sent me some new shit. I don’t know what he’s about to do, though.
Would you say he’s the artist you admire most?
Actually, Andre 3000 is the artist I admire the most. If it wasn’t for me meeting him, I never woulda done that “Ultimate” shit. He was surprised when he found out I got Big Rube for the album, and I told him, “You may not know who I am now, but you’re gonna hear about me.” I took a picture [with him] and my ex-girl, and headed back to the crib. When we got back to the crib I started crying.
It’d been a shitty year. My grandma died, my brother died, I had to go on tour, niggas dissing me, and all that shit. And then that was the highlight of the year, through all the bullshit. It made me sure that I was ready for whatever the future holds. And look at it now: everything’s starting to work out. After I met him I changed my hair, I changed my Twitter name to “Ultimate Denzel Curry” from “Denzel AK Curry” because that was Raider Klan,that was old, I wanted to be the ultimate. I went to New York, took pictures with Jessica Lehrman, and when I got back, me and Ronny J worked on “Ultimate” at four o’clock in the morning. It was so raw we had to put it on the album.
Do you look at Andre 3000 as the person whose career you want?
Possibly, yeah. He goes to places you wouldn’t expect. He roams of his own free will. He doesn’t really like the limelight, he just wants to focus on what he’s doing and get his shit right. He knew when to stop. I would love to have a career like that.
How did you get Big Rube on the album?
My manager reached out to him. We traded information with him. I was talking to him on the phone and let him know about Planet Shrooms before it was even a project.
Do you still listen to a lot of Three 6 Mafia?
From time to time. Sometimes you gotta embrace darkness but you can’t really embrace darkness all the time or you’re gonna end up consumed by it.
Do you feel like you were getting too dark when you were in Raider Klan?
Naw. That was my rebellious side coming out. I was tagging houses and shit. I wasn’t smoking weed, and I was still going to school, but I’d break my curfew. My old boy would get mad and shit ‘cuz it was only me and him at the time, ‘cuz my mom dipped. I was doing shit just to do it.
Do mushrooms help with your creative process?
It rejuvenates my body, repairs my brain. I wouldn’t say it helps me—I only created one song off of mushrooms, and it was cool as fuck. I’ve created a couple songs on acid. I wouldn’t say I need mushrooms all the time.
Have you found that there’s one particular thing helps you write?
Sativa, but not all the time. When I’m really feeling it, I’mma write. When I’m going through something, I’mma write. When sativa’s involved, it’s an aid.
Have you thought about reconnecting with SpaceGhostPurrp?
No, hell no, fuck that nigga.
“I’M NOT TRYNA GET TRAPPED AND BE KNOWN FOR RAPPIN’, RAPPIN’, RAPPIN’—IT’S JUST A DOOR OPENER.”
So you don’t miss being in Raider Klan at all?
I’d never go back to Raider Klan ever again. I’d go back to the roots of what it was, and what it represented, but at the [same] time I’m C9, I’m ULT forever. That’s the real shit.
What are your goals for C9?
Making sure everybody get where they need to get, so they can do what they really want to do instead of wack ass shit. If they wanna rap, that’s cool, but I wanna do something different than this rap shit, ‘cuz it’s fake as fuck.
What would you rather be doing in the future?
I’d love to make cartoons. I’d make cartoons, comic books, [and] just have my own outlet. When I’m done with this rap shit, I wanna make shows, do theater, and make shit. In order to do that, I gotta rap. I gotta show my art skills so I can get to these points and places. I wanna work for Adult Swim and have my own show. [I wanna] be able to write my own movies, like on a Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino level. If I can write music, I can definitely write a script. If I can draw my own album covers, then I can make cartoons. I can do anything, that’s how I feel. I don’t wanna sit here, and have [rap] be my only source of income. There’s a lot of shit I wanna get done, and a lot of shit I wanna do. I’m not tryna get trapped and be known for rappin’, rappin’ rappin’—it’s just a door opener.
Are you starting to feel like rap is less fun and more of a job?
Naw, not really. This goes back to Andre 3000. He said, “Don’t get bored,” and the moment I didn’t get bored, I started having fun with it. Some people are assholes, some people are fake. You only get a handful of real niggas you come in contact with.
What are your thoughts on the Miami rap scene?
It’s gonna be the next shit. It’s almost there. It’s gonna pop—everybody’s gonna pop. I know I’m gonna pop. Pouya’s gonna pop, C9’s gonna pop, I know Buffet Boys is gonna pop. Everything is gonna explode. Kodak Black is already exploding—his shit is hard, his shit gets raw. We need more niggas like Kodak Black.
I was trying to tell my manager [about wifisfuneral], “Yo, look, I fuck with this kid.” He was like, “Eh he’s whatever,” then when Earl [tweeted about him] I was like, “I told y’all.” He has to go through more shit to be more potent, but I knew he had potential. It took a co-sign [for people] to see that.
Do you identify with Rick Ross, Trick Daddy, and the older generation?
I know who they are, but they don’t really fuck with us with like that. If they did, they would’ve said something. They’re probably watching to see what we do, but they haven’t said shit or do shit. I’m not dissing nobody, but that’s how it is to me.
It seems like your vision of Miami is different than previous generations’.
I’m not a gangster. My brothers were gangsters, but I’m not a gangster. My dad is a real ass nigga. I was raised by my father. He was in the Marines, and he was just telling me, “It’s all about being smart, it’s not about being a thug.” He didn’t want me to get dreads, or get gold, but at the same time I feel like I got that not only for myself, but [because] I’m also a representation of where I live at. It’s something I always wanted. I remember looking at those pictures when I didn’t have no hair, or when I had an afro, looking like Undercover Brother—I wasn’t feeling that shit.
If you had 24 hours to live, what would you do?
I’d throw a party and tell everyone how much I love them before I go.
If you could sleep with any celebrity who would it be?
Miranda Cosgrove. iCarly, bro! Everyone’s gonna say Keke Palmer. Miranda Cosgrove can get it. You can tell [her] I said [so], too, but in a nice way.
Photos by Shayna Batya.