Danny Brown is an American rapper from Detroit, Michigan with a somewhat colourful past. He claims his first words were in rhymes thanks to his 17 year old mother reading him Dr. Suess books, and after a few years dealing drugs and a stint in prison, he finally broke onto the rap scene, his lifelong dream. Now, he’s doing pretty well for himself. He claims that in 2010, he was almost signed to 50-Cent’s label, but wasn’t because he didn’t fit with their image (Brown prefers fitted jeans and a vintage-inspired wardrobe), before being signed to A-Track’s label Fool’s Gold Records. His first album under Fool’s Gold, XXX, received critical acclaim, being named the best hip hop album of the year by Spin, the 6th best album of 2011 by Passion of the Weiss, and the 19th best by Pitchfork. XXX even earnt Brown the title of Best Artist of the Year by Metro Times. Danny Brown has collaborated with A$AP Rocky, Black Milk, and The Avalanches, toured with Childish Gambino and A$AP Rocky again, and been grouped with acts like Iggy Azalea and Kendrick Lamar.
Now, Brown is releasing his third full-length album, a double-sided LP that features collaborations with Freddie Gibbs, Schoolboy Q, Mr. MFN eXquire, Scrufizzer, A$AP Rocky, Ab-Soul, Charli XCX, and Purity Ring.
Old is quite different from XXX. Where XXX got listeners used to Brown’s weird style and out-there lyrics in a laugh-out-loud kind of way, Old is a more serious and mature look at Brown’s past, present and future. It’s structured in two distinct halves, representing the two sides of Brown’s psyche and personality. Side A is the most emotional material on the record, with tracks like Torture, which is apparently about his uncle’s spousal abuse. On Side B are the ‘party’ songs, but even here run some deep emotional issues. The songs deal with his drug-dealing past, and attempts at sobriety, such as Clean Up, a track that finds Brown in a hotel room ignoring text messages from his daughter whilst he gets high.
The tracks on Old always manage to keep listeners guessing, as Brown shows a vast array of styles. Sometimes he raps almost viciously, and sometimes, such as on the track Float On with Charli XCX, he’s mellow and subdued.
All these things are good, and it’s certainly more real than a lot of other rap and hip-hop songs today, but what I can’t get passed are how unnecessarily obscene some of the lyrics are. Call me a prude, but are lyrics such as “now she licking on her best friend while they suck me watching sunset” (from the song Dip) and “won’t stop licking till you tell me to quit/ let me suck on that clit while you follow my head” (Handstand) really necessary? For someone who craves a sober lifestyle, he sure does rap about being on drugs and the ensuing (very graphic) sex a lot.
Danny Brown is a great story teller in one sense; his songs are real, and always keep things interesting, but at the same time he kind of comes off as a drug-crazed, oral sex maniac…
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