The most interesting man in hip-hop: Danny Brown

By Matt Moretti

Danny Brown is an acquired taste.

The first time you see him, you’d probably think he was a drug addict. His hair is flat-ironed straight, and a third of his head is usually shaved completely bald. His front teeth are either gone or broken, and the ones he has left are losing any hint of whiteness. He sold crack in the ghetto of Detroit, and even served time after years of evading warrants. His voice, when he raps, can be high pitched and shrill, but it can also be low and grimy, depending on the song and its’ subject matter.

One could look at Danny or hear an excerpt from a Danny song and think that he is a joke or a gimmick, but Danny is the type of artist that you need to listen to, rather than hear. Rap is often described (not wrongly) as a genre that focuses mainly on the objectification of women, the glorification of drugs and violence and over-the-top braggadocio. And Danny does all of this in his music, except he does it with charm and self-parody. It is rare in rap music for an artist to be so self aware, because one of the reoccurring themes of the genre is a cartoonish sense of cockiness.

His most recent project, XXX, is the one that threw him into the spotlight. It was the perfect summation of the experiences of a troubled drug user. The first half of his free album embraced this dangerous lifestyle. The front of the album includes references about overdosing and abusing drugs (MDMA and Adderall in particular), Danny’s incredibly detailed exploits with the female anatomy, and his confusing relationship with the rap game.

The mood of the album takes a drastic turn on the second half when it becomes clear that Danny’s life is spiraling out of control. The first half of the album is the high of drugs, and the second half is the come down, and the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle. His subject matter switches seamlessly from the euphoria of living the life of a rock star, and in the process reveals not only that Danny is more than a hype, party rapper, but that he is a troubled individual.

On the same album as a song all about cunnilingus, there is a song about a college girl who is letting cocaine take over her life (Nosebleed), a song declaring his predisposition to be a party animal to an unhealthy level (DNA), and a few odes to the broken city that Danny calls his home, Detroit.

The climax of the album is its closer, the impeccable, beautifully, disgustingly raw 30. Within its context on the album, it is one of the most powerful songs I’ve ever heard, as Danny switches his flow from the crackling grumble that took over bottom of the album, to a full on emotional scream at times during this outro. Each line reveals more pain he has tried to hide or make up for through drugs, culminating in the closing two lines “The thoughts of no success got a n**** chasing death/ Doing all these drugs in hopes of OD’ing next, Triple X. “

This album is a stellar and powerful piece of work, but it’s only a part of the enigma that is Danny Brown. Watch an interview with Brown on YouTube, and you’ll discover the incredible person that accompanies these raps. His laugh is more of a cackle than anything, and he finds most things funny. He has talked about his love of cats, his fondness of TV personality Kathy Griffin and everything in between.

Watch enough of him, and listen to enough of him (both his features and his past solo work) and you’ll feel a connection with him and his music. This man had appeared on songs of every genre, ranging from electro-pop act Purity Ring, all the way to the polarizing Insane Clown Posse. And he ripped his features for both of those acts, which says a lot about his versatility as an artist. He is a special person; just normal enough to become an integral part of the hip hop scene, and still wild enough to get fellatio on stage from a random female fan.

His new album, Old, can take the 32-year-old rapper from a music blog darling to household name for casual rap fans. The album will be released digitally on the 30th of September, and in stores October 8, and if you consider yourself even the most casual of rap fans, I’m sure this project will be worth your listen. The previously released songs of the album (Old, Dip, and Kush Coma) continue the themes of Brown’s previous work, and he sounds just as polished as ever over unique, maniacal beats from obscure producers of his choice, namely Rustie and SKYWLKR. The beat for Dope Song, a track that Danny has only performed in concert, is sure to bring the house down on any party that it is played at, and when I get to hear the CD quality version of it, it will probably change my life.

Danny Brown could be the most unique rapper in the game, and his sound is not light on the ears at first listen, but the man can rap, and he can do it better than almost everyone that does.

Give his new album a couple listens, and you’ll have the opportunity to hear one of the burgeoning, most talented rappers in the world right now, in what could end up being his magnum opus. If not, at least bless your ears with the opportunity to hear Dope Song. I get hyped just thinking about it.


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