It’s been a huge start to the year for Melbourne hip-hop lovers with American favourite Chance The Rapper and UK stalwart JME both playing to enthusiastic crowds, and tonight is no different, with Florida young gun Denzel Curry bringing a taste of the South to the city.
A last minute venue upgrade bodes well for the evening, but as is often the case with hip-hop gigs, the original set times are pushed back by 40 minutes, not that anyone seems to care. DJ Ziggy, support act Manu Crooks’ personal DJ and hype man brings the heat before Sydneysider Crooks casually appears from the side of stage. While his set is relatively short, Crooks’ American influenced bangers are just the tonic for the super excited crowd who turn the venue into a sweatbox. Highlights of Crooks’ opening performance include ‘Blowin’ Up’, sampling Ultra Nate’s massive 1997 club hit ‘Free’, and the Zane Lowe approved ‘Assumptions’.
As Crooks bows out his DJ does his best to keep the mood up tempo, unleashing a selection of crowd favourites such as the Migos and Lil Uzi Vert collaboration ‘Bad And Boujee’, Skepta’s ‘Shutdown’ and Travi$ Scott’s ‘Antidote’. It works, with the youthful, Palace-wearing rap fans turning up like nobody’s business, particularly one chap sporting a t-shirt adorned with wrestler Batista who just can’t stop cutting shapes.
With the packed crowd nearing fever pitch, Curry arrives – after a strange melody of 21 Savage, The Beach Boys and Desiigner – and commands the stage like a seasoned vet for the next hour. Sweat dripping from his tied up dreads and jeans hung low, Curry is a fireball of aggressive political and social lyricism exploding over bass-heavy beats conjured by his DJ, who also happens to look like a stacked Travi$ Scott.
Asking the audience if they “wanna get live and weird?” Curry bizarrely begins doing Tai Chi as the beat for ULT drops. His presence is infectious, with the Aquarius’ Killa dancing and gyrating all over the stage. At one point he splits the crowd in two and gets each side chanting before the beat drops and the sides converge, with the front of stage resembling a circle pit at a punk show. Curry spits rapid-fire lyrics with a raspy DMX infliction, somehow sounding twice as fast as he does on wax. His song selection is top notch too, with older cuts ‘Zone 3’ and ‘Lord Vader Kush II’ sounding as fresh as Imperial album cuts ‘Knotty Head’ and ‘This Life’.
Curry’s energy is limitless, and even when he slows things down by getting his DJ to play Tupac’s ‘California Love’ and Rob $tone’s ‘Chill Bill’, he’s still actively singing along an keeping everyone focused on the music. Ja Rule’s ‘Put It On Me’ is dedicated to the ladies before he brings a bloke named Richard onstage to dance along during hectic finale ‘Ultimate’. Richard is getting much love from the crowd before Curry throws him into the front rows, who promptly drop him straight on his ass. Admonishing the mosh for failing to catch Richard, he gets the lad back on stage, re-starts ‘Ultimate’, and proceeds to throw him off the stage for the second time. Thankfully all goes to plan and Richard is crowded surfed without incident before returning to the stage and joining Curry and his crew as they go crazy and spray water over everyone, bringing the night to an end.
Curry may still be a young player in the hip-hop world, but his passion and dedication to not only the craft, but his live show, will no doubt see him fast become a household name.
Gallery: Denzel Curry, Manu Brooks – Max Watt’s, Melbourne 05/01/17 / Photos: Nikki Williams