Danny Brown - Old
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Record Label: Fool's Gold
Rap music today is filled with plenty of weird, oddball personalities, but few stick out in the way that Danny Brown's does. The guy is instantly recognizable when he hops on a track, with his trademark yelps and spitting out rhymes that trump everyone else in sight. This was the case for the majority of 2012 and has carried over into 2013. Brown has graced songs with his presence for everyone from El-P to A$AP Rocky, and even a few people in the dance scene. It's no surprise, though, since his wildly erratic personality perfectly lends itself to working well within dozens of different styles.
It's fitting, then, that Old is the most varied and diverse Danny Brown release yet. The album is essentially broken up into two halves, with the first half being more introspective, traditional hip-hop and the second half containing high-octane, festival ready tracks. However, the themes presented typically stay the same throughout, with drug use and sex permeating a majority of these songs. But with Danny Brown he paints a vivid picture of what his experiences have done to him and why drug use has become such a big part of who he is. It can get a little depressing at times, but it makes for some of the most emotional moments on a rap album this year.
Needless to say, Danny Brown's music is not for the faint of heart. “Torture” sees him recounting many of the scenes he has witnessed in his hometown of Detroit, and its clear many of these things still haunt him (“All this shit that I've seen ***** its torture/Look in my mind and see the horrors”). Even on the back half there are moments of darkness, and the disorienting “Kush Coma” is, as Danny revealed himself, a song about depression. But most of the personal, spine-chilling stuff is going to come from songs like “Clean Up” and “Gremlins” where Brown takes you further into the things he's seen and been through.
The back half of the album is still filled with some absolutely stunning moments, but most of that comes more from the combination of Danny Brown's dizzying rapping and the energetic production. Danny rounded up some premier names in the dance scene to help out with his new batch of festival bangers, and the likes of Rustie, Darq E. Freaker, A-Trak, and Brown's own right-hand man SKYWLKR churn out some of the best produced beats of the year. Rustie's production on “Side B” sounds like it wouldn't have have been too far out of place on 2011's Glass Swords, but Brown dominates the track and makes it the perfect intro to the second half of the album. Things get progressively louder and louder until reaching something of an apex on “Kush Coma,” and the album closer “Float On” gently brings you down as Danny Brown spits some of his most exposing lines yet (“Can't get a wink unless I'm leaning off the syurp”). It serves as a reminder that even though we just went through a run of songs that could perfectly soundtrack a party, there's a reason Danny Brown is the way he is.
Even though the back half does contain some of the best produced rap of the year, the production on the front half is really just as good. The style on the front half is more traditionalist, but since guys like Paul White, Oh No, and SKYWLKR (who shows incredible versatility on the album) are in charge of a majority of the production, it's all still very forward thinking. Even the Purity Ring collaboration on “25 Bucks” lends itself to the sound of the front half, despite their more dance-trap leanings. But songs like “Side A” and “Lonely” that are heavily boom-bap influenced are put together in a way that makes them fit well in the context on a Danny Brown album.
Recently, in an article with Pitchfork, Danny Brown told of his aspirations to be the Bon Iver or Arcade Fire of hip-hop. He wants to be independent, but make it past the level of more mainstream artists without signing to a major label. His hope is to become huge on his music and his music alone, and so far his plan couldn't be going any better. XXX catapulted him to one of the most respected and sought after artists in the independent rap scene, and has allowed him to work with bigger artists than himself. His name is getting out there, but as he has proved with Old, he isn't going to sacrifice himself to get bigger. Danny Brown is taking the route everyone wants an artist to take: putting out forward thinking, self-expressing art that is setting the bar rather than merely attempting to reach it.
That song hits hard in my car but it's one of my least favorite songs. I think my favorite is "The Return". (when I say least favorite, understand that I enjoy every song on this album and wouldn't dare skip it.)
To me, it's all about his flow.. It's very predictable and it stays the same throughout most of the songs.. The hook before the chorus on 'Dip' is almost identical to the one on 'Kush Coma'.. He hardly switches it up. I do enjoy Old, as I like Danny Brown, and feel like this is his best release. But his vocal patterns are pretty simplistic and not as sophisticated as other rappers.