As far as rap name goes, Danny Brown might be the most innocuous of them all. Unlike Rick Ross, who borrows his name from coke dealer “Freeway” Ricky Ross, the only people who share a name with the Detroit emcee are football players—American and English versions.
But when dropping the digital needle on his latest mixtape XXX, it’s obvious that Brown is anything but conventional. With a voice that lands somewhere between Aesop Rock and Jello Biafra, suffice it to say he has an unconventional style. In fact, before the he finishes his first bar on the opening title track, most listeners will likely write him off as some sort of gimmicky fringe act, not a serious MC.
Brown, regardless of any other subjective criticisms thrown his way, is undeniably weird.
It’s beneath these layers of quirks and oddities that Brown reveals his true gifts as a rapper: his eschewing of typical rap game swagger, focus on lyrics and establishing his thematic interests from track to track, and a derisive sense of humor delivered with his ferocious flow.
This last component might be the most intriguing. Tracks such as “Radio Song” are aimed squarely toward industry absurdities, and Brown isn’t above mocking those to adhere to them, chanting, “I got that income tax swag,” on the end of “Lie4,” a song about rappers who are prone to hyperbole when discussing their fiscal affairs.
Derision isn’t his only interest, however. Some of the album’s best moments come when Brown drops the attitude and delves into his own experiences. “Scrap or Die,” which flips the hook from Young Jeezy’s “Trap or Die,” details the days in which he’d strip houses of scrap metal and sell it to factories to get by. Although the subject matter may be more serious, this doesn’t stop Brown from riding a capriciously crafted beat, which has the bubbly drum patterns popular in today’s growing lo-fi hip-hop style.
Sometimes, Brown can be outright chilling in his lyrics, such as on the song “Monopoly.” It has an unruly, three-minute verse in which he growls things such as, “Nigga that’s bland, fuck you and ya mans/Smack you like a bitch nigga, that’s open hand,” and, “I done served fiends on they menstrual/Ain’t even had pads, stuff they panties with tissue!”
But just when you think he has a fondness for wickedness (like those rapscallions in Odd Future), Brown will come back with songs such as the infectious “EWNESW,” a clever and effortlessly likeable joint about regionalism in hip-hop, or “Bruise Brigade,” a shameless party anthem about swilling cheap beer, bolstered by one of the best one-liners to hit a track this year (“I’m higher than Swizz Beatz hairline”). What seems like a lack a focus is anything but; rather, Brown never wants the listener to feel comfortable. Guessing where he’ll go next is part of XXX’s appeal. There are truly few rappers as lively and engaging as Brown, if only because of his refusal to be normal.
Admittedly, it’s a shtick that might not last long. But for right now, XXX is one of the most compelling rap releases this year.
Danny Brown – XXX Tracklist:
- “Die Like a Rockstar”
- “Pac Blood”
- “Radio Song”
- “I Will”
- “Bruiser Brigade”
- “Detroit 187″
- “Blunt After Blunt”
- “Outer Space”
- “Adderall Admiral”
- “Party All the Time”
- “Scrap or Die”