Say hello to Danny Brown, one up-and-coming rapper who defies convention.
Even though Detroit rapper Danny Brown has been recording and releasing music for over ten years now, it wasn’t until his 2010 release, The Hybrid, when the MTV Artist To Watch started gaining wider attention. It’s pretty crazy how long it took, considering how distinctive and high-pitched his vocal delivery is and how left-of-center his fashion sense falls, but there you go.
After dallying in G-Unit circles for a while, Brown found his groove on 2011’s XXX, where his combo of lyrical evisceration and throwback to golden-era, backpacker hip-hop — not to mention his twisted, devilish sense of humor — managed to really set him apart from his peers.
On “Die Like A Rockstar,” he pulls off all three of these things at once: “I got that Kurt Cobain type of mind-frame/ Feeling like Keith Moon shrooms in my dressing room/ Basquiat freestyle/ Feeling like Jimi Hendrix in Anna-Nicole’s mouth/ River Phoenix ’93 VIP.” Going hard? Check. Musical knowledge of the past? Check. Clever as hell? Check times infinity.
That, well, hybrid style led to Brown popping up on the covers of everywhere from XXL to The Fader, with Spin naming XXX the best hip-hop album of the year. The next single, “Grown Up” was an equally buzzed-about hit and ended up nabbing Brown the 2013 Woodie for Best Video (along with a momentary onstage hangout with Machine Gun Kelly and Tegan & Sara).
No surprise, then, that artists were lining up to collab on Brown’s 2013 followup, Old. Look for Freddie Gibbs on the ’90s-conjuring “The Return,” Purity Ring on the atmospheric, indie-leaning “25 Bucks,” and everyone from A$AP Rocky and Schoolboy Q to Charli XCX popping up throughout.
“When I started making Old, I was trying to think of artists that came back from getting great reviews and made an album that was just as good — or better,” Brown said in an interview with XXL. “The only group I could really come up with was Radiohead. So if XXX was my OK Computer, then I’d have to make my Kid A next.
“So I studied Kid A, and I took away that it’s not so much about the lyrics as it is about the way the beats feel, so what drives this album is the production… That’s why I took so long with making this album. I was waiting for the perfect beats. And I got ’em.”
No arguments here. Just check out “Side B (Dope Song)” below to see what he means. Its devolving, frenetic production sounds like some apocryphal Danny Brown track that’s been chopped and screwed and then sped back up double-time. If that doesn’t get your attention, we’re not sure what will.
+ Check out Danny Brown’s “Side B (Dope Song)” video, see Danny Brown’s “25 Bucks” video, watch Danny Brown perform “25 Bucks” live, and download a free mp3 of “25 Bucks” featuring Purity Ring. Find more videos, live performances, and interviews at dannybrown.mtv.com.
Photo credit: Josh Wehle