Detroit rhymesayer Danny Brown has set free his highly-anticipated junior set, Old, via Fool's Gold.
The follow-up to 2011's acclaimed XXX, the project comes heralded by reader-approved lead single "Side A (Old)" and video single "DIP." A variety of noteworthy artists assist on the guest tip throughout the 19-track set, among them Ab-Soul, A$AP Rocky, Freddie Gibbs, Mr MFN Exquire and ScHoolboy Q. Beats come courtesy of A-Trak, Darq E Freaker, Frank Dukes, Oh No, Paul White, Rustie, Skywlkr and more.
Old Album Review
A product of Detroit, Michigan, a city that has had its fair share of struggles, and Brown is no exception. Born to young parents of age 16 and 17, Danny didn’t have a lot. He did however, have parents who influenced his music side, often singing and talking in rhyme. After his parents split when Brown was 18, he had no choice but to sell drugs to make ends meet, which eventually led to several arrests. Now, all of this is all available to you on Wikipedia, but why read it when you can live it alongside Brown on Side A? On the first half of Old, Danny paints a brutally honesty picture of what life was like gowning up in a struggling family. Songs like the powerful 25 Bucks, featuring the entrancing vocals of Megan James and the dripping, ominous boardwork of Corin Roddick (known together as Purity Ring), portray his family struggles to stay above water; his mother had carpal tunnel from braiding so much hair. Torture, where Brown with an almost pained flow wrestles with some of the horrific things he saw growing up (like people getting their heads smashed in and dope fiends burning their faces off ) is easily the most gripping cut on the album. In one of the most haunting, painfully poetic lines Brown admits to feeling tapped and haunted because of what he’s seen, “I feel like a prisoner of war / Reacting sporadically to what the mind absorb.” While the lyrics resonate well on their own, the hostile, unwelcoming, stark environment, created by his visceral flow and Oh No’s callous production, make you feel uncomfortable and tapped. These feelings allow you to connect with Brown on a deeper level because it goes from hearing a story to living it alongside him.
Brown’s incredible ability to create these dreary yet vivid landscapes is the strength of side A and Old all together. Clean Up and Lonely portray a troubled, drug dependent Brown—ignoring his family because he has been on a four day binge—struggling to leave the past behind him and focus on his promising rap career. You can get lost in guttural flow, but when you get accustomed to his unique vocals, you will find more than meets the eye. He is a tormented, pained figure and they way he connects with you, sharing his innermost demons with these gritty landscapes is a unique talent that very few rappers have. This quality makes the first half of Old is some of the most creative, striking hip-hop I have heard in a long time; there is truly nobody like Danny Brown. Side A left me awestruck, marveling at Brown’s story and presentation. Unfortunately, Side B, represents a different side of Brown, which while still unique, ultimately pales in comparison to the depth of Side A.
While still unique and exotic, Side B sacrifices the deep, powerful imagery and ambiance of the first half, for a more drug-driven vibe. It will translate into one hell of a live performance, but is not as deep content wise as the former side. Efforts like Smoking & Drinkin will appeal to the electronic, party going crowd thanks to his liquor-doused, drug-infused lyrics and high octane production. Smoking And Drinking is the epitome of side B. It is intense and unrelenting, in part due to A-Trak’s electronic-heavy production, and while still engaging, it had a different less substantial feel. He trades in powerful drug –driven bars like, “Daughter sending me messages saying ‘Daddy, I miss you’/ But in this condition I don't think she need to see me”, from Clean Up, for lines like “And we smoke blunt after blunt after blunt after blunt after blunt after blunt after blunt.” It is not that this side of Brown is any less unique and interesting, but when the depth he has on the first side is not as present on the second it ultimately leaves you with a different, less engaging and fulfilling listen.
Still, Danny has a sound unlike anybody else, and the production is absolutely stellar. This album is one of, if not the best produced albums of the year (yes, including Yeezus). Brown has all the tools necessary to succeed, a knack for beat selection, a unrelenting, unmistakable flow, and a captivating story to tell. His original, unconventional approach will make him a favorite for those looking for something different and we should look forward to growing Old with Brown as he continues to demonstrate his unique skill set for years to come.
(By Lucas Garrison, @Lgarrison88)
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins