I chose the album “Private” completely at random, among the many on my desk, needing something to get me through an hour or so while doing something else, and thought I’d give this a try, almost expecting to skip through it or change it to something else after a couple of songs. Instead what happened was I was greeted by an intro –entitled “Royalty Freestyle” – which basically laid out the album’s intent, leading me from song to song, absorbed in lyrical stories and freestyle themes. The songs are laced together with a variety of busy percussion, with heavy bass underneath atmospheric synths, which works incredibly well here, by never really slowing down or letting up in intensity and being elevated by D.Denzel’s energy and delivery.

In fact none of the beats here would sound out of place on any hip-hop radio at the moment – however you won’t be hearing any of these songs on the radio. The reason why? The lyrical content. The whole album is really focused on lyrical themes which are a far cry from the sugar-coated mainstream blabber.

D.Denzel is rebelling against the system of rap trap tropes, and when he does speak about money, women or power, it’s in a completely tone and sense. Right from the start, the content doesn’t let up and D.Denzel really hammers his messages home.

So who is D.Denzel? He is a Brooklyn-born Toronto-raised rapper, who is striving to get across his message of “Lead Your Own Way” – the concept that you don’t have fit in a box to succeed.  Working towards being the best artist that he can be, D.Denzel states: “I want to show people that you’ve got to persevere regardless of where you’ve come from or where you’ve been.”

So while the song’s themes might be too blunt or on the nose for some, the messages are undeniably there, and is delivered is some very clever lyrics with energy and great flows. The album really kicks into top gear from “Rididin Freestyle” which delivers a dynamically orchestrated, cinematic beat. But it’s just the prelude of greater things to come.

“Ride Out Freestyle” is a killer track with a mesmerizing melodic hook and a thumping bassline, over which D.Denzel brings his animated conversational tone. This one is a no-brainer for radio play, and one of the most captivating track on this compilation. There are however many gems among the thirteen track to be found on “Private”.

“Kings Freestyle” has drumbeat that will completely knock the bottom out of your stereo, while “Woman Freestyle” rocks on a bouncy Caribbean style rhythm. “I Got To Shine” delivers a busy electro beat, before “I Get It In”, slows things down with an ominous bass rumbling in the undercurrent.

But it’s on “Class Clown”, with a tongue twisting flow, that D.Denzel shows, beyond good production, that he’s just as much of a factor as the instrumentation. Once he gets down to serious business, D.Denzel shows can hold his own as an emcee against anyone.

D.Denzel has a way of serving his rhymes that keeps the listener locked in without getting repetitive. He again varies his style on “Lead Your Own Way”, with a mix of Reggae and EDM elements, before closing the show down with the piano-driven urgency of “Livin’ Life”.

This is an album that needs to be heard from beginning to end to truly be appreciated. Not because it has a binding theme or narrative, but because you are able to witness the expansion and flowering of D.Denzel’s style on each song. He is definitely coming into his own, and definitely does not fit into any box!

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