Unlocked 1.5 is definitely a big fat mess, but you can't lie to me that it doesn't go hard. Because at the core of it, they're still basically the original Unlocked mixtape in its essence. These instrumentals may be more musically complex at certain junctures, but quite honestly this doesn't assure that it's better. I can't be blamed for preferring the slightly more minimalist original, and at times maximalist.
Some songs lose their edge, and instead, there turned into a lo-fi version of themselves. It feels like Denzel was recorded on the original instrumentals, and they failed to re-record his flows to some of this. But I can't really call this a mixed bag, instead, it's pretty rough-edged. The remix of Lay-Up is a massive disaster, but the rest of this remix LP is surprisingly solid, unlike what these reviews suggest.
To the existing mould of UNLOCKED lore, 1.5 is a pretty solid addition, and only makes me amped up for a potential 2.0 on the way. My excitement for Denzel's promising 2021 output cannot be measured in words, however, 1.5 is clearly inconsistent. First off, I notice there's no sole interlude in the form of Track01, nor is there a remix of it. It didn't add much to the original but contributed to its backstory.
It's abstract and colourful for the most part, and the first four songs are close to exceptional, doing justice to their originals. Smino spits a quality set of bars, while Robert Glasper's rework of the instrumental is quality. Denzel does sound a little off-putting at first, but the mixing does wonders and it works pretty damn well. The Alchemist tones down Cosmic a bit once again, but the instrumental is still rather high quality. Joey Bada$$, a surprising and quality feature, turns out as the highlight of the show here, as his short verse delivers quite the punch.
Newcomer Arlo Parks, who has been making waves with her recently released project "Collapsed In Sunbeams" does impress vocally, but what stands out on this song is Georgia Anne Muldrow's rework of the instrumental. Arlo Parks tries her best to gel in, but this instrumental clearly isn't her thing. But Georgia's rather psychedelic toned production here still doesn't attain the lofty heights of the much acclaimed original instrumental.
Obviously, this is one of the two tracks on this project where Denzel is absent, but for the most part, this record almost plays off as a producer-driven project as Denzel and the features barely imprint with me, Denzel's old acapella's don't work with a lot of these beats, but it's clear the production across the board on this EP is top-notch.
Seeing Charlie Heat's name on Track 4, one of the two remixes of Take It Back was quite a pleasant surprise, given his reputation to put out rather quality reworks. And this track is no different. while Denzel trails off into pitch-correction use towards the end just like the original, this is one of the tracks where he actually works to his strengths amongst this beat. Well, actually, this is another recycled verse from the original, sadly. But all be said, it does still work quite a bit, even though the more lo-fi tonality can be a turn down for many avid listeners of hardcore hip-hop who came here for that.
Pyro is my favorite track off the original opus, it really felt like a breath of fresh air on this record, however, this is one of two mediocre instrumentals on here. Kenny Mason brings in the charisma, while this isn't his ideal choice of instrumental, I was quite wooed by his rapping here if I had to be honest, and the Indian sample that rings in the back bring in the nostalgia quotient for no reason.
Sango plays it safe and aesthetically abstract simultaneously. So far, it's smooth and satisfying sailing for this record. However, things get worse with the next track. Jay Versace's instrumental is simply just, say, lackluster. It doesn't switch up for shit, and the only redeeming elements about of it are Denzel's bits at part, but it's comical as to how unnatural he feels on this type of instrumental.
For Denzel's flow, high octane boom-bap instrumentals and peak energy trap instrumentals are his only ally, not lo-fi boom-bap. And this is the sole mistake that they make with this remix album. The other issues are just transition and mix related, but this track as a whole is a massive dud that takes about 10 points of this project that I enjoyed more than the others on this site. Diet 1.5 also feels inferior to it's predecessor on Denzel's part, however Conway steals the show with his verse on here. But there's nothing distinctly new about this track to be talked about at large
Finally, we close out with a very very peculiar, and seemingly unnecessary, but a welcome experiment in the form of the Take It Back (GODMODE remix). The drum and bass tempo percussion is quite unnerving and unexpected, but by lo-fi standards, it's quite the unique sounding track. Obviously, Denzel is useless on this tempo, and is nestled between certain parts, and his pitch-corrected vocals make a comeback, just like the original and the Charlie Heat reimpression.
It isn't a great song, but it's rather groundbreaking and extremely interesting in nature. In fact, everything from the intro to the outro is all over the place, giving it a true experimental edge. I know this won't be everyone's cup of tea, but as someone who does dig Drum and Bass, drill, and house, this is an experiment I can standby. Just wish Denzel could've written a solitary verse to fit with it, but I can't ask for everything.
Overall, Unlocked 1.5 is clearly inferior to its predecessor, but it is an exciting outlook to a possible bridge between modern-futurism and retro-styled rap production.
I think the Unlocked branding can go places, and that Kenny Beats and Denzel Curry are en route to becoming the next coveted pair, a la Mad-lib, and MF Doom. Denzel is a capable MC, and Kenny is a versatile producer, and these collaborators are all talented in their own right (not looking at the Jay Versace dude because he hammed this shit), so it provides quite the divisive and interesting rap experience. I didn't enjoy this a whole lot, but I can see myself coming back here often, and appreciating it a whole lot more, so the score remains intact.