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by Denzel Curry

Released March 9, 2016 via C9

Reviewed March 2, 2021

Top tracks (based on community voting)
ULT (75%), Zenith (41%), Knotty Head (35%)

With Denzel Curry’s second studio album, he further cemented himself as a leader of a burgeoning hip-hop scene in Florida. Released for free through SoundCloud, Imperial also played a role in the development of the “SoundCloud rap” typically associated with South Florida, despite the stylistic differences that the term would later represent. Imperial’s production style offered a unique blend at the time, combining hard-hitting 808s and the sounds of trap with the atmospheric stylings of cloud rap, striking a perfect balance of different sounds he had experimented with prior. And with effortlessly smooth flows, clever penmanship, and wisdom beyond his years, the then-21-year-old Curry staked his claim as one of the decade’s craftiest MCs. With further releases, this reputation has only grown, and Imperial has aged gracefully as perhaps his most defining work yet. – Dominick (9.3/10)

Beginning with a reverby passage, underscored by ominous bass ready to burst at any moment, Imperial is loaded with energy, skillfully conducted and controlled by rapper Denzel Curry as if he’s a vibrant telekinetic comic-book character, without the spandex. Still riding on the high of his viral hit “Ultimate,” the beats on Imperial utilise similarly rapid trap and alt-hip-hop percussion, but slower cloud-rap waves swagger over them, like on “Knotty Head,” which also has a couple of neat sonic detours during the second half. They’re consistently multi-layered and are long enough to really appreciate their details, while the record as a whole is modest in length, neatly fitting within the confines of a single 12” disc. The original mixtape’s dynamics and pacing were broken up quite nicely with the introspective “Pure Enough,” but the label-issued LP swaps a couple tracks out. This causes a stagnation of high-energy that wasn’t present before. Curry also delivers compelling songwriting, with powerful hooks and interesting verses, though he’s short for subject matter pretty quickly. A tight tracklist with decent guest verses, but it’s Curry’s own chemistry with the instrumentals that make Imperial worth the listen. – Cam (7.3/10)

Dominick: 9.3/10 | Hadley: 9/10 | DeVán: 8.2/10 | Enth: 8/10 | Jared: 8/10

Pax: 8/10 | Cam: 7.3/10 | Alan: 6.5/10


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