The Detroit MC with the chipped tooth is back again with his third LP following on from his critically acclaimed 2011 effort ‘XXX’. Featuring production from A-Trak and Rustie (among others), and guest appearances by A$AP Rocky, Ab-Soul and Purity Ring, this album lives up to its expectations whilst Danny Brown stakes his claim as one of the biggest names in modern rap.
Side A of this double sided album begins with Danny describing his old life in Detroit, MI. It’s filled with drugs, junkies and gangsters, the typical rapper upbringing. However, the way in which Danny tells his tale sets him apart from the rest. In ‘Wonderbread’, his unique vocal style gives the narrative a cruel turn. His nursery-style way of weaving the tale of witnessing the shooting of an addict presents a distorted image of his daily grind as a child. Yet the majority of side A consists of Brown rapping in a smooth, controlled voice – not his trademark twisted ramble he usually vocalises. This more introspective account of his past provides distressing images such as a junky that lit up on a stove who “damn near burned his top lip off” and seeing “another dope fiend beat another with a hammer”. Both appear in ‘Torture’, a tough look at Brown’s life before his rap career took off, a stage of his life when he was getting by through selling drugs on the streets.
Side B of the album is a return to the drug-fueled, party-lover Danny Brown. Having made it big, Brown now spends his life getting high and partying to forget what he has witnessed in his painful past. The beats get more hectic and electronica influenced as Brown boasts of his lifestyle filled with MDMA, blow and girls. ‘Smokin and Drinkin’ provides a view of Browns mentality: “Gotta get away, to escape” and “hope that these problems just go away/right there in my face, I ignore it every day”. He would rather get high and not face his demons. In ‘Dip’, Brown takes a shot at rappers who are fakes – “now all these rappers talkin’ bout that molly/bet a million dollars these [rappers] ain’t dipped it”. Similar to ‘Lonely’ on side A, ’Float On’ is at stark contrast to the general feeling of this second half of the album. In it, Brown is reflective of what he has gone through. He is “tormented with the things I seen with these eyes” and “can’t get a wink ‘less I’m leaning off of syrup” but he finally “got the whole world listening” to him.
The beats in ‘Old’ cross various genres from the hardcore hip-hop beats prevalent in side A tunes such as ‘Gremlins’ and ‘Torture’ to the EDM influenced side B with stand out examples being ‘Dip’ and ‘Way Up Here’. ‘Lonely’ features a great Beatles-esque beat whilst ’The Return’ has a subtle Eastern style sound. Purity Ring produces a candidate for the greatest beat on ’25 Bucks’ as does SKYWLKR on ‘Dope Fiend Rental’. This album also has nice features from Freddie Gibbs on ‘The Return’ and Ab-Soul on ‘Way Up Here’. Scruffizer brings some UK grime to ‘Dubstep’ while Charli XCX helps to tie up the album with a great hook on ‘Float On’.
This album features Danny Brown at his best so far and this is definitely one of the best rap albums of the year. With such a wide variety of sounds, there is something here for everyone. Check it out, you won’t regret it. Highlights – 25 Bucks; Wonderbread; Torture; Lonely; Dope Song; Dip; Float On Lowlights – Handstand
By Elliot Druce