Danny Brown shocks in his 2013 LP, Old, spinning listener’s heads with complex lyrics while staying firmly grounded in Detroit’s streets.
My discovery of Danny Brown is embarrassing, to say the least. I owe it to ICP. I won’t even spell out their name. Born and bred in Illinois, I sometimes delve deep into the state’s underground music movement because I’m a masochistic son’ buck. If you’re from Illinois, you’d understand that’s an understatement for the sake of…hell, here we go. You see, there’s this little music “festival” that occurs every year in Cave Rock called The Gathering of the Juggalos. Where, you say? Exactly.
Illinois treats the festival like a rich father treats his drug dealer son. You know he’s there, and you know he makes money, but like hell if the neighbors found out! Anyways, vicarious as I was, I decided to watch a documentary on the festival. Sure, the people looked friendly and so on and so forth, and the music wasn’t too cringe worthy — minus the annoying “woot woots” and juggalos jerking off to “family” philosophy — but then the camera cut to a performance by Danny Brown. I was just getting into Hip Hop at the time, more old school than modern, but that’s personal taste. I don’t even know what song he performed, but I do know that, at that moment, I searched for Brown’s latest gem, Old.
I was pleased. Very pleased.
Danny Brown brands himself with two identities:
1. His psychotic, turn-loose party persona.
2. His introspective, serious commentator persona.
Old follows XXX through its use of duality. Whereas XXX reached for seriousness as the tracks progressed, Old fades deeper and deeper into madness. At one moment, he may rap about his horrific upbringing, and at another moment, jump around the club accompanied by schizophrenic beats. The music even follows this trend, travelling time in the old school vibe of “Danny Brown (Old),” tapping societal issues in “25 Bucks” and then exploding into “Smokin’ and Drinkin’.” There’s a lot of material on this album. And I mean, a lot.
“Torture” stood out with its lyrical sincerity, how Danny beats the listener over the head with tales of drug use, street crime, domestic abuse and general disgust with an honest delivery. In the background, producer OH NO lays down a haunting, atmospheric beat that accents Danny’s lyrics for maximum impact. Emotional, that’s how I would describe the album’s A side. Yet, Danny Brown’s emotion leaks through every track on this album. “25 Bucks,” with its social commentary, follows Old[‘s] concept as a “wake up” piece. Danny’s lyrical awareness and storytelling ability shines in this track:
Now I’m trapped in the trap and the devil ain’t forgetting/Wanna see me dead or locked in a prison.
-Danny Brown, “25 Bucks,” Old (2015)
Of course, Old doesn’t consistently keep up with this introspective, serious subject matter. Done poorly, inconsistent songwriting is an album’s crutch, especially at RFTOS. However, for some reason, the club-centered tracks follow the album’s concept of regression. Hell, this probably isn’t even a concept album and I’m just filling your heads with bullshit. What is a review without some bullshit, though? This is the music industry! As the album delves into its “madness,” the party anthems surge loud and proud, punctuated by scattered production values. I won’t dock points for the lyrics. Think, sex and drugs explained creatively, with some serious “what the fuck?!” moments. That’s not too far from a description of Rock n’ Roll, come to think of it.
Danny’s flow is as unique as it is chaotic. As previously stated, his overarching flow moves in two directions. For faster paced beats, he explores his higher pitched, nonsensical timbre. Meanwhile, “Torture,” and the album’s more serious tunes bring a vocal drop. Yet, there’s constant rhythm and movement in Danny’s voice, a refreshing use of energy without being consumed by said energy, if that makes any sense. Production wise, the beats are well crafted and succeed in their lack of distraction. A solid effort from all involved.
With his third LP, Old, Danny Brown attached emotion to his trademark flow, creating an interesting album of multiple perspectives. Truly, a classic in the making.
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