Danny Brown surely has a reputation for being a wild child, but the 32-year-old Detroit rapper taps into a more introspective side on his latest album, Old, exorcising some childhood demons, reflecting on his past mistakes, while admitting to current struggles and shifting his interest from partying to grinding.
After two years of recording, Brown decided to split his LP into Side A and Side B, explaining that it was the only logical way for the production and lyrical content to flow well. He admits that some Side A songs like “25 Bucks” could’ve just as easily worked for Side B, but the sequencing allows for some soul-searching on the first half, before transitioning to the more performance-ready second half.
Right off the jump, on Side A, we hear about those nostalgic fans who “want that old Danny Brown/ to bag up and sell a whole pound,” despite his obvious life upgrade since then. It’s something he addresses again on “The Return” with a reference to OutKast’s “Return of the G,” and some fans’ resistance to grow and experiment with the artist. But those fans will just have to catch up.
On songs like “Clean Up,” Brown vividly relives some of the more troublesome moments of his life (“A week done went past, I don’t go nowhere/ Hotel rooms crushing pills and menus”) then comes to terms with the fact that he’s simply come “too far to f— it up.”
“Making that album was me getting [those experiences] out and then looking back on it. It was almost like therapy to me,” Brown told MTV News. “I guess the world is my psychiatrist. I just tell them my problems and then they help me out.”
On “Torture,” he recounts brushes with dope fiends and gunshots, rapping, “I feel like a prisoner of war/reacting sporadically to what the mind absorb/probably need a shrink, can’t get a wink.” With verses steeped in so much jarring reality, he makes it easy to see that kids bred in tough inner city environments have their own struggles with post-traumatic stress syndrome too.
“I can’t sleep at night because I have these nightmares all the time,” Brown says, breaking down the song. “I don’t know if you can really consider them nightmares, but it’ll be dreams of me being back in the day, as a 19-year-old, and I get so caught up in the dream that when I wake up, I’m so just happy to be where I’m at in my life. I’m glad I’m not doing that anymore. It gives me real bad anxiety.”
On Side B, Brown is still acutely aware of his current struggles, like coping with the pressures of his the daily grind and waning mental health on songs like “Kush Coma.”
“['Kush Coma'] is about depression,” Brown explains, with a giddy laugh. “It’s not about having fun and smoking weed as it might sound like. It’s about being so fed up with life that you just have to smoke yourself to sleep, till you get into a kush coma. You’re tired of being awake, tired of being in reality so you have to put yourself into another reality for a minute.”
Despite those struggles, he maintains that at this moment in his life, his priorities have shifted dynamically. “I’m just really focused on my career right now, instead of just partying and having fun. I guess I’m just being serious now. I took two years making this album and in those years I had a lot of fun and a lot of stories but I can take two years of grinding now.”