A couple of months after releasing 2019’s ZUU, MC Denzel Curry joined the hardcore band Bad Brains for a rerecording of their 1986 classic “I Against I.” The point was clear: For as steeped as Curry is in the regional vernacular of southeastern rap, he also understood rap’s spiritual link to punk—music that channels the raw, noisy energy of youth. At eight tracks in 18 minutes, UNLOCKED is even shaped like a hardcore record, with tracks that mutate, Hulk-like, from sturdy weight-room rap to tangles of warped vocals and dissonant samples that play like experiments frothing over in real time (“Take_it_Back_v2,” “DIET_”). As exciting as Curry is—to paraphrase an old chestnut about great singers, one could listen to him yell the phone book—the anchor here is producer Kenny Beats, whose tracks mix the feel of classic boom-bap with a sample-splattered approach that captures the tabs-open fever of now.

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