If you were to take a look at the national rap scene and describe hip-hop acts using the metaphor of a house, P. Diddy (or is it Puff Daddy again?) might be a mansion with a pool at the end of a cul-de-sac. Hova would be an urban apartment with stainless-steel appliances. Kanye would be a warehouse converted into a loft—the kind that doesn’t even have a separate bathroom. And Danny Brown would be one of those old houses in SE Portland—the ones with bizarre artifacts on the lawn and a secret door leading up to the attic. A place so original, so weird and so well constructed, that even though it didn’t have the polish and shine of the others, it was still your favorite house by far.
Last year, Brown dropped what many considered to be the best rap album (and one of the best albums all around) of 2013. On Old, Brown combines insightful lyrics with forward-leaning production to create 19 individual contributions to the body of recent great hip-hop work. To understand where Danny Brown now resides, the listener needs to know where he came from.
Hailing from Detroit, Brown’s 2010 debut, The Hybrid, introduced listeners to a rapper with a distinct voice, crazy hair and even zanier lyrics—all of which garnered excellent reviews. Up to that point, Brown had not led an easy life: Dropping out of school at 13, he sold crack in his late teens and into his early 20s to pay the bills and then got caught. In an interview with Complex Magazine last year, Brown stated: “I was in my early 20s, broke as fuck, like ‘Loserville.’ I’m out of school, begging people for cigarettes. I smoke weed so I can’t get no job. My early 20s were the worst years of my life. I’m telling everybody I’m going to be a rapper. They’re looking at me like, ‘Pshhh—whatever.’"
But, it was also during this time that Brown started attending raves, taking Molly and listening to Dizzee Rascal (an English hip-hop artist who incorporates electronic genres such as grime, drum and bass and UK garage in his beats). These elements supplied him with a unique palette of sounds from which to form his own beats and provided the backbone of what makes Danny Brown so great.
Brown’s party tracks have that element in them that makes you grit your teeth, nod your head and get down to the bass. Taking collaboration with EDM artists to a whole new extreme, Brown’s singular voice and lyrical velocity keep the listener hooked while production contributed by DJs such as A-Trak and electro up-and-comers like Paul White or Purity Ring aids his erratic flow.
Songs such as “Break It (Go)” and “Smokin & Drinkin” more closely resemble tracks mixed by the DJ at a warehouse party than a cut on a hip-hop album, while standout hits such as “Kush Coma” (featuring ZelooperZ—who'll be opening the Portland show) transport the listener to a far-off subconscious territory. This is not only welcome, it’s outlandish and awesome. Pretty much everything about Danny Brown is and that is why you should be spending Sunday, May 11 at the Roseland Theater to catch the return of The Old Danny Brown.