When we last heard from Danny Brown, he was doing rock star things like getting topped off mid-performance in Minnesota and doing other outlandish things while under the influence of one of his favourite drugs, Molly (MDMA for the newbies). Unlike the plethora of rappers who used the drug in their rhymes just out of trend, Danny has actually done it, does it, and it`s a part of his lifestyle. There are always rare exceptions to the rules, and Danny isn`t a rapper who necessarily abides by all of them; after all – he did threaten his label that he would leak his own album (M.I.A also did this; whom is another known rebel artist). Danny Brown’s music had to grow on me, and I’ve stated this multiple times. If it hadn’t been for me listening to the Black & Brown album, I don’t think I would have got back into listening to him that early, but things happen for reasons which we can’t explain sometimes. The State of Michigan (sticking with Detroit specifically) has churned out some raw rappers, and it’s crazy that the Midwest continues to be overlooked for their talent (unless that has changed, and I just haven’t seen it), and hopefully that’s in the process of changing, because the proof is in the recordings. Danny Brown hasn’t drawn comparisons to the late Wu-Tang Member, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, for no reason; it’s his personality and style that has separated him from the rest of the new class of rappers in more ways than just the music – it’s him overall as a person that puts more concrete meaning behind the rhymes.
This album was anticipated for the very reason that you really didn’t know which side of Danny Brown you were going to get. On XXX, you got a glimpse of Hybrid Brown, and the newer Brown that was more experimental and creative (not to mention flat out blunt). You had tracks like Nosebleeds that was down to Earth, and then you had tracks like Bruiser Brigade and Blunt After Blunt that served as more hype. Well, it seems like Danny Brown heard the request of the fans and on his album, he went back in the day of Side A & B albums and/or mixtapes, and he gave you both sides of Danny Brown – a genius thought, might I say. It just goes to show you that it’s an album for the fans who want to hear what they want to hear, and that’s something I definitely respect.
Right off the bat, Old (the title track,) pointed out the direction of Side A, and in the hook it was evident that he was listening to the fans and their request of having “the old Danny Brown” back. His old flow is more gritty, and it doesn’t have the wild voice that many would consider highly annoying (people have called him the ‘male Nicki Minaj’ for that very reason), but for the street raps and in-depth looks at his life, these are the tracks that many have been longer for. Danny Brown has been around drugs his whole life, and coming firsthand when he sees it in his own family, and the fact that he sold drugs as well, there often comes a disturbing image that carries the weight of the story being told. The first verse alone gives you some images of struggle that many can connect with, especially me:
“In the kitchen, oven open for the heat
Got my young, light skinned ho rollin’ up the tree
Wearin’ jackets in the house, it’s the Michigan way
Boiling water on the stove, Ramen noodles for dinner”
Now, there are a lot of rappers who talk about their struggles and many others question just their authenticity, but if you’ve watched enough videos and interviews of Danny Brown, you know that there are major truths behind his raps, despite what illusion many other rappers give you through their rhymes. In 2 verses, Danny transformed back into Hybrid mode, and even in the beat itself, it was that raw sound that many were looking for – if the whole album was this way, it probably would have been perceived by many more ‘hip hop heads’ for its boom-bap feel – but this is just the first track.
The Return was (In Danny Brown’s words, paraphrased) ‘Part 2 of Outkast’s Return of the G’ (great song, by the way), and who else would suitably fit the track than Freddie Gibbs? When I saw the tracklist, I didn’t know how this would turn out, because of their difference in rap style, but they do have genuine respect for each other, and it all came out well on the finished product. Gibbs is not one to be shy from his Gangsta-style of raps; it’s what has made him who he is and why he’s so heavily respected in the game (also, they’re a couple of 30 year olds, to add to the Old theme).
“Return of the gangster cause niggas want that real
Want that old Danny Brown but nigga I’m like chill
Return of the gangster fucked that hipster squeeze the trigger
You got me fucked up I’m a hood ass nigga”
If you only heard recent songs from Danny Brown or just listened to XXX, then you may not understand that the party type of atmosphere that Danny’s more recent work shows off wasn’t how he started. If you go back further into his catalogue, you’ll get that gangster approach that he started off with, hence why people want the old him back. Freddie Gibbs has been consistent since the first mixtape I played of his, and he kept up with that on his verse. I feel like he raps with an AK-47 present with him in the studio.
“Eastside niggas keep roaches in the ashtray
Twenty thousand out the public housing on a bad day
Drop it in the pot, if it ain’t lockin’ that’s some bad yay
Tryna save my soul I wish the lord would meet me half way
Devil on my shoulder as I’m whipping up this yola
And that motor hit the rotor ship this blow to Minnesota”
2 verses, 2 gangsters, and 1 emphasized point – they’re not to be fucked with. I liked that it was short, because seriously, you can say everything that you need to say with 2 verses and a hook. Hip Hop has been saturated with 16 people on a track produced by 6 and they’re 18 minutes long with 3 minutes of instrumental between each verse (or whatever DJ Khaled song you’ve listened to in the last 7 years). The point is that, there’s no need for clog and jam, just get to the point and make it dope.
For one thing, I had no idea that Purity Ring was a Canadian group (we’re terrible with advertising our own people if they’re not blown up in the States yet), and here they are on 25 Bucks singing hooks – salute to them. In the first half of the opening hook, the imagery of living in the hood comes to life yet again.
“25 bucks, mama braid your hair
Sit on the porch, she’ll do it on the stairs
Grew your hair out and you wanna get it twisted
Fed us many nights nigga that’s how we was livin’”
Now, my mom didn’t braid hair (which I was totally fine with, because I don’t have the head shape for braids), but 2 of my closest friends back in the day were girls and their main hustle was hair braiding. If you couldn’t afford to rent a chair in the salon, then you were in the stairwell or in the hallway braiding hair for dudes in the building or people you knew from down the street and onward. Almost every other day, I’d come home seeing dudes in the hallway getting their hair braided, and that was just everyday life for me. The fact that Danny Brown painted the picture on the track, I could definitely appreciate it. The money for braiding hair varied, but if you were good, you’d make some good money (there were often debates on who was going to braid who’s hair), and that’s why when Danny rapped that you could live off that money, it’s actually true if your hustle is right. Between his mother braiding hair and his father being in and out from working jobs, it was definitely tough for him growing up, but the important thing was that he got his hair braided when he wanted to and didn’t have to pay for it, although the family could have used the money. The song itself isn’t just about the $25, but just what it represented in Danny’s household – it could go a long way, and it meant more than just sitting on the steps for hours styling hair.
So far, I was liking all of the songs I was hearing and a part of me was just wishing that Side A was just the album altogether, but I wasn’t about to let myself get too far ahead. Wonderbread had some bounce to it and it wasn’t as grungy, but what I like about Danny’s tracks is that they don’t all sound the same, and he experiments with different sounds (credit the producers as well for that). In the 2 verses of the track, they’re simply stories of what happened while Danny went to the store to get Wonderbread (some good ass bread too).
“Walk out the door, first thing I see
A dope fiend standing there looking at me
Standing right there, in front of the porch
With a pipe in his hand and the other a torch
I kept on moving, ain’t worried ’bout that
But a block later heard ratta-tat-tat”
“Mommy gave me a book of food stamps
Said “Go get some bread and a pop and come back”
Get to the store, first thing I see
Arab dude just starin’ at me
Lookin’ at me like I’m bout to steal
But really though dog, you need to go chill”
Don’t you love racial profiling? It happens all the time; although the convenience store where I went to frequently was ran by Koreans, there were often times where they looked at us (me and my friends) like we were going to steal, but that wasn’t the case all the time (know your local clientele – I’m just saying). The concepts of the songs thus far are really simple, and they’re concrete. The substance is that the stories are of his past, so if you didn’t know who he was or what he was about, he’s giving you that “Hi, my name is _____” treatment, so you get to know a little bit more of him as he goes along in the album. It’s very well done to this point.
Gremlins is one of the best songs on the album as a whole because of the play on the classic movie of the same title and the narrative that goes along with it. It’s a rags to riches story of someone else, but the description of just what a person from the hood does to get ahead is the example of doing whatever it takes to do so.
“I know some lil’ niggas that thirst cream
That pop a bitch on camera and we ain’t talkin’ bout twerk team
Shootin’ up cribs turnin’ porches to smokescreens
Mama smoking nightmares chasin’ her pipe dream”
The line that caught me was in the 2nd verse when the character that Danny is describing, is trying to ‘progress’ but of course the situation doesn’t help in his favour and since he’s a ‘Gremlin’, he’s bound to wreak havoc just to get his satisfaction.
“Listenin’ to 2 Chainz, ain’t thinkin’ bout college
I wonder if he knew that 2 Chainz went to college
I wonder if he knew that, would that change his mind?
Guess that’s somethin’ we’ll find in due time”
There are actually smart rappers out there that have an education, but at the same time, promote that trap lifestyle (I guess because it’s easier to do that), many teenagers have been influenced by rappers who didn’t go to college and dropped out of high school to pursue the drug game or rap careers. The example here is that, if they knew the truth, would they influence their decision based on that finding? We’ll never know. I liked that Danny used that, for some reason.
Schoolboy Q and Danny Brown have always been clowning each other on Twitter, and they also went on tour last year, and they had a track together called Flight Confirmation on The Alchemist’s album Russian Roulette, so I knew that they were capable of putting together a hype track. There’s a filthy lifestyle that comes with the hood living of an individual, and it was definitely portrayed by how they treated the promiscuous types of women (I mean, Snoop Dogg did say that we don’t love these hoes). I didn’t think anything of the track at first, but it sort of grew on me. I’m still ‘whatever’ to it, because I didn’t care much for Q’s verse (which is rare).
Torture is also one of my favourites on the album, because it got back to that personal story of Danny’s troubled childhood. As I stated before, Danny witnessed drug use in his own household, as well as in the community he lived in. He spends time on the track recalling some of the more traumatic visuals that left him scared. The beat is so gloomy, you just feel a sense of discomfort – I love it.
“Was like fucking seven years old
When I first seen a fiend try to light a rock off the stove
Damn near burned his top lip off, so my mind ticked off
Desensitized to a lotta things, mind would drift off”
I’ve come across my share of traumatic things that still bother me today, and in a way (nowhere nearly as traumatic as seeing a family member trying to light a crack pipe in my kitchen), I can understand what the song is about, and it really makes me grateful for the life I have and that I didn’t have to witness some of the things that many others have had to.
“And it’s torture
Look in my mind and see the horrors
All the shit that I’ve seen
Nigga, it’s torture”
Through the life experiences that Danny has had to go through (again, his story is pretty interesting when you look into it), you can only imagine that he has to find a significant balance to fight off demons that he’s come across in his life time (hence why there are 2 sides to the album).
Lonely & Clean Up go hand in hand because it’s a progression of Danny Brown’s life and coming to realization of just who he is and just how he’s going to make a name for himself in his life – not just by being caught up in the street life, but actually doing something.
“So I’m smoking by my lonely
By my goddamn self
I don’t need your help homie
Cause don’t nobody really know me”
It’s said that not wanting help when you’re down is a source of being too proud to beg for have some assistance, but there are cases when one just has to do things their own way and no one can help with that – you just have to figure it out for yourself. Danny comes to find out who he us on Clean Up, as he was figuring out that it was time to ‘clean up’ his act and at the same time get clean from drug use (a little bit of past & present wordplay, perhaps). A story that doesn’t get often touched is the fact that he has a daughter, so it gives him yet another reason why to want to clean himself up and come correct if he’s going to a big rapper that he sees himself as.
Throughout the songs, you can hear the difference in the way he raps, and Red To Go is the last song before it gets into the more regular Danny Brown that you hear now, with all of the ad-libs and high pitched voice (created under the influence of Molly). Although the story about his life progressed from childhood to adolescence to probably a few years ago, Danny still has that goal in mind to be a force in the rap game by any means, but through his own style.
“So I got my ass up, fuck dependin’ on luck
Greyhound to NY bout 300 bucks
Kept my hopes up but my confidence was low
Now my self esteem is astral
Lookin’ at this cash flow”
Dope Song was the ‘coming of age’ for Danny Brown as a person and a rapper, and the title is a double entendre, because not only is it a drug related song, but the song is dope in itself, but he explains on the track as to why it’s called Dope Song.
“I’m sick of all these niggas with their ten year old story
You ain’t doin’ that mo’, nigga long time ensured
So take this as a diss song, cause this is my last (dope) song”
He’s 100% correct, because there comes a point in time where you just have to let it go, man and rap about what you’re dealing with now, and not what you went through beforehand. 10 years down the line telling the same stories that you were building on, isn’t building you, so I got exactly what he was saying about that. Side A was for the fans who wanted that real, but I think for the rest of his career, Danny won’t be doing any songs about selling dope, because he doesn’t do that anymore – he just wants to sell dope music.
Automatically, you heard a change of pace and Side B was definitely for the hype tracks that you’d play at a party to make things go crazy (he had a few of those on XXX). It started off with Dubstep, with its electronic sound and the feature by an English MC by the name of Scrufizzer (Danny Brown worked with UK producer, Darq E Freaker, which shows that he’ll work with any market). Dip used songs like Niggas in Paris and Da Dip by Freak Nasty to promote a party vibe, which is what he was going after on this side of the album. These are songs that you know would be crazy to perform or hear in the club; so far it’s working.
If you know XXX, then some songs on Old, you’ll be able to recognize where they come from. Smokin & Drinkin and Handstand can be traced back to songs like Blunt After Blunt and I Will, when it comes to the amount of weed Danny smokes, and the art of cunnilingus (yes, it is art). The basis of Side B is that there are catchy hooks, vibrant beats, and the only purpose is for you to turn up and get wild to – that’s the only purpose; no great lyrical content is expected, it’s just to be enjoyed.
Way Up Here was interesting, because I didn’t think that Ab-Soul would hop on a Danny Brown style track, but oddly enough, if worked. Ab’s verse was comical to me, but it makes sense that him and SBQ would be on Danny’s album, because they’ve been pretty experimental with drugs (Q did Lean for a while, and Ab has done Acid a couple times). The beat for this track has some seriously thunderous bass and it’s too contagious to take off repeat. It was the same thing for Kush Coma (which came out long before the album did as the first single), and ASAP Rocky’s verse “fit” because he too experimented with different electronic sounds on his album, Long Live ASAP. Kush Coma is a hype track that’s probably the best on the B-Side, and there’s still imagery that plays behind the crazy beat that you can’t help but to bounce to (although, I prefer the version of the song without Rocky on it).
“Close my eyes, feel like I’m going down
In an elevator at 90 miles an hour
And all I see is stars and they coming at me sort of like a meteor shower
My forehead’s sweaty, my eyelids heavy, feeling like I ain’t goin’ make it
Cause inside my head’s like a firework show in the 4th July in Las Vegas”
Out of nowhere, you get hit with a bit of old and new with Float On by having a present sound, but with a past flow & voice that recaps the path that Danny took to get to this point in his life, and it makes to be a great ending, much like how 30 was for XXX when he talked about the struggles of the music industry – he still has some of those doubts, but he’s still going after what he believes in.
“And now I, got the whole world listening
Give your ear for a second a life changing decision
Every other minute thoughts run through my mind
’bout how bad I wanted this but I cannot waste time
So I’m trapped in the beat, stuck on every line
Nothing else matters, except my next rhyme”
The album was a story of Danny’s come up, but it also provided a necessary balance as to who he is as a person, and that’s the great thing about it. You got the struggle and you got the party, and all in all that’s what makes Danny Brown, Danny Brown. The reason why I like this album a lot is because it’s an easy listen, and there really is a great blend of both sides so you can listen to a particular type of track depending on how you’re feeling at the time – hyped or depressed. Zelooperz was the only member of the Bruiser Brigade to be on the album, and that was surprising, but it’s understandable that you’d want it to be more so about you than to spotlight the group as a whole. My expectations were that he was going to take what worked with XXX and go from that, but he really stripped down the album to the bottom and went back to the basics. As a fan, I appreciate this album because of what it represents, and for new fans, I’d hope they’d appreciate what Danny’s about because he literally gave you all of him on one album to connect with on different levels. It’s honestly one of the better ones this year if you look at it as a full album with a consistent concept wrapped around it. I’d definitely recommend anyone to listen to it, because it really does go to show you that it doesn’t matter how old you are in hip hop – if you have something to say, you’ll always have an audience. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review,
That’s My Word & It STiXX