“HELL NAH THESE PRODUCER N***AS GOT ME FUCKED UP BRUH!!!” News of Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats’ collaborative EP, UNLOCKED, began as a war cry. The SoundCloud rap pioneer took to Twitter to draw some attention — and it worked. “ON LOTTO WHEN I SEE YOU IMA BEAT YO ASS!!! @kennybeats” he continued. Fans and collaborators began reaching out: Vince Staples and Isaiah Rashad checked in with Kenny Beats, while Kiddo Marv, Sam Sneak, and BROCKHAMPTON’s Dom McLennon hit up Denzel.
The situation deflated as quickly as it started. The punchline? A YouTube link shared by both artists to a short film that sees the pair arguing over a leaked project before heading out on a bizzaro animated adventure through the internet where they’d attempt to reclaim the leaked files. Co-created by Psycho Films, and presented through a variety of animation styles, the piece throws back to Saturday morning cartoons and is soundtracked by eight tracks of collage-heavy boom bap reminiscent of early 2000s indie rap. Spoiler alert: the film reveals Denzel and Kenny’s evil other-dimensional counterparts to be the culprits of the leak.
That beef might have just been a marketing gimmick, but it’s not as far-fetched as fans might think. At one point, Denzel was “anti-Kenny” — the pair had fallen out over a record and only reunited last year when Denzel appeared on Kenny’s popular YouTube show The Cave. The series gives viewers a window into the prolific producer’s creative process; Go-Pros employed around his studio capture 30-minute studio sessions in which he cooks up tracks that his collaborators freestyle on. After shooting an episode, the guest usually tends to hang around and work on new music, which was how Kenny and Denzel found themselves embarking on what would become an impromptu three day creative odyssey — leading to their unorthodox collaborative EP, UNLOCKED.
We caught up with them both to assemble an oral history of how they drew upon mutual inspiration to make an unexpected body of work that’s drawn them closer together and tapped into new creative potential for both artists.