Denzel Curry lights up Frost Festival with fluid rhythms and immersive energy

Denzel Curry lights up Frost Festival with fluid rhythms and immersive energy

Stanford Concert Network held the 2023 Frost Music and Arts Festival on Saturday at Frost Amphitheater. The event was headlined by Denzel Curry, and it also featured 070 Shake and Jean Dawson, along with student group and Battle of the Bands winner General Consumption.

Three hours after the concert started, the native Floridian Curry swaggered onto the stage in a baggy t-shirt and bucket hat. His performance reverberated with powerful psychedelic energy, with visuals dominated by the color red, full moons, dogs and even police officers. A loud gunshot ended each song, a nod to the violence that often abruptly ends lives.

Curry made visible efforts at audience engagement. He traversed the stage trying to see which sections of the crowd could scream the loudest. Curry also called on the audience to move physically, urging us to raise our arms during his verses and “drop low” to the ground in order to jump up during beat drops.

My favorite aspect of Curry’s craft is his ability to effortlessly blend different rhythms together, which is evident in songs like “SKED.” I was amazed at how fluidly he could swap flows at varying tempos to form a cohesive whole.

Prior to this year’s concert, I had seen him perform during his off-the-cuff bit in the iconic 2016 XXL Freshmen Cypher, in which I felt he delivered the best verse. His top-notch lyricism carried through on Saturday; his bars brimmed with unique self-reflection and social criticism.

Curry’s set list spanned topics relevant to college students, such as mental health struggles and secret relationships, as highlighted in the song “This Life.” His personal conflicts came through on “CLOUT COBAIN | CLOUT CO13A1N,” an emotionally raw song referencing the tragic suicide of Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of Nirvana. His appealing sense of braggadocio shone through in songs like “WISH,” in which he addresses his signature hairstyle of thick dreads and charisma with women.

Of course, Curry would have been remiss without performing “GOATED.”, a TikTok-famous song by Armani White with a Curry feature. The crowd’s energy was at its highest during “SUMO | ZUMO,” a masterful track featuring a litany of references to American pop culture.

Audience member Sean Sewell ’23 M.S. ’24 enjoyed this year’s festival, citing the strong energy of Curry’s performance. “I thought it was funny the way [Curry] saved his favorite new song for the encore after a purposefully quick goodbye,” Sewell said.

Rapper and singer 070 Shake performed prior to Curry with a two-sided set — one subdued and the other stormy. The graphics projected in the background featured vivid colors and strange images, which channeled her delicate and dynamic energy. Previously, I had only heard 070 Shake in a feature on the TikTok-famous song “Escapism,” but her energetic performance inspired me to search for more of her work, which deserves more attention.

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