#1 Album of The Year: Danny Brown- Old

Posted: January 2, 2014 by ericbernsen in Album Reviews, Music
Tags: , , ,

In a recent interview, the unique personality that goes by the name of Danny Brown claimed that he is the “underground king” of hip-hop. While many non-rap nerds may be unaware of his existence, the highly talented, multi-dimensional emcee from the harsh streets of Detroit has made it through hell and back in order to cement his position in rap. Brown’s claim is an acceptable one after hearing his latest album Old, but it is essential to take a step back and quickly review his prior material so we can fully appreciate the body of work.

Back in 2010, Danny Brown released The Hybrid which showcased his ability to capture the grimy aspects of inner city street life with a flow/delivery that stood out entirely as his own. A year later came XXX, a highly punk rock/electronic influenced project that takes experimentation within hip-hop to a whole other rage fueled level. Nevertheless, both albums are similar in that fact that Danny Brown his able to change his tone and persona to fit within whatever atmospheric soundscape he finds himself taking over. Old is the culmination of these previous projects and appropriately provides the listener with a mature sounding recap of Danny Brown’s drug-filled twisted journey as a rap rockstar with multiple distinct personalities.

Danny Brown’s self-lived creation is a concept album that exists as two different sides (Side A and Side B). While it is relatively easy to distinguish the sonic division within the album, as a whole it is apparent that Danny Brown worked endlessly to pen his life story in an artistic manner worthy of praise. The first half of the album has Danny Brown dealing with his past as he reflects on the hardships he faced growing up in such a poverty stricken community. Whether it is story-telling based tracks that have Brown reminiscing on getting jumped on the way to get bread for his family (“Wonderbread”) or the older drug dealing version of the Detroit rapper that has an unfortunate experience with crack heads and police (“Torture”), the brutal honesty is so potent that the songs feel like Danny is taking you on a haunting tour of the Motor City ghetto.

This album is Danny Brown’s story and his alone, but the guests he recruits to appear on the project only enhance the mood and provide a little break from Brown’s sometimes off-the-wall, eccentric flow. That type of flow is absent from “The Return” which contains an interpolation of the classic Outkast track “Return of The G”, and the result is a cold straight-from-the-gutter track that is gangster rap at its finest. Freddie Gibbs makes an appearance to spit a killer verse, and on these types of songs Danny Brown makes it clear that he is not merely a Molly popping clown, but more so someone who uses the party lifestyle to escape the violent environment he was birthed in. Another fitting feature on Old is Danny Brown’s close friend and tour buddy ScHoolboy Q. The groovy gangster lends a hand on “Dope Fiend Rental” which is the definition of a banger with a booming beat that will surely be a fan-favorite at live shows. Nevertheless, no one steals the show from Danny Brown who starts to reflect on how his perseverance and determination to experience more than what life originally offered him allowed him to succeed in the rap game. Songs like “Lonely” exemplify this notion and while Danny Brown may make poor health choices with his excessive drug use and overall binge lifestyle, he is fully aware of it (“Clean It Up”). And as he continues to fall victim to his nightmares, the music that comes from it continues to impress the emotionally invested audience.

It is around that point in time when Side A comes to a close and the wild EDM influenced Side B arrives to get the party started. While XXX had a similar experimental production style, the latter half of Old is Danny Brown’s furthest departure from standard rap music we have ever seen. Turn up tracks such as “Dip” and “Smokin & Drinkin”  puts Danny Brown on top of a tripped-out pedestal and he has never sounded so comfortable, relishing in his skillful “weirdo” raps. The production behind Brown is just as frantic and chaotic as his rhymes, but no matter how gone Danny sounds he still has lyrical realizations of being trapped in this never-ending unstable life cycle. While producers such as Paul White and Oh No handle the bulk of Side A’s beats that allow Danny Brown’s tales of the hood rhymes to flourish with a strong sense of dead-serious conviction, Rustie and SKYWLKR provide the fast-tempo tracks that serve as alternative house party anthems. While sonically each side exists in two completely different realms, the overall production of Old is compelling and cohesive within the project’s overarching concept.

While Danny Brown brought the right musical minds together, he is the star of the project and responsible for making Old a special body of work. On Old’s closing track “Float On”, Danny Brown brings the listener full circle and recaps the moments on the project (real life events) that inspired him to create this profound music that is rooted in hip-hop, but exists as something more free and less bound by typical expectations of a rap record. The subject matter of Side A has enough depth in it to fill a normal rapper’s entire career, but the drugs that inspire the out of left field songs on Side B give Danny Brown a bold power of likability and distinctiveness that allow him to be a true contemporary “master of the ceremony”. Hip-hop traditionalists will be satisfied by Danny Brown’s emotionally sharp lyrics that denounce the typical glorification of the street life, and the college student crowd will gladly reach high levels of intoxication to Old’s abrasive party-fueled production.

Even if Danny Brown remains a mainstream rap outcast due to his unique vocal tone that is hard on the ears to the generic listener, the musicality of Old is undeniable even if the albums of Kanye West and Jay Z overshadow it amongst the masses. But when it comes down to it, Danny Brown has a massive level of acceptance from his cult following and beyond. The time it took to release Old shows how well-crafted it was and the daring body of work will shush the critics who have pleaded for “the old Danny Brown”. The tormented grind it out rapper from Detroit never left, but rather evolved into a more complete, well-rounded artist. Staying true to yourself is one of the most important life lessons for any person to abide by and, in my mind, no other hip-hop artist or album did that better than Danny Brown and Old in 2013.

Listen to Old below and let us know what you think of the review/rating. Thanks to those who took the time to read all of these reviews.

 

 

 

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Comments
  1. […] down our top 10 albums of 2013, you know how much we enjoyed Danny Brown’s project Old as it earned the coveted #1 spot. Danny has a natural personality and flair for the camera, which does nothing but add to the […]

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