Everything about Danny Brown stands out, right down to his funky teeth.
The Detroit emcee is one of rap’s unique and undersung heroes, known for his high pitched delivery, strange sense of humor, and his (former) punk rock-style lifestyle which has become almost folkloric with the stories of drug abuse, wild outbursts, and many you-had-to-be-there shows (rivalling ODB almost!). I’ll never forget the uproar a couple of years back when during one of Brown’s sets a random woman in the audience gave him dome while he was rhyming--something even he wasn’t expecting. But aside from all that, Brown’s music speaks for itself, and albums such as 2011’s XXX and 2013’s Old are critically acclaimed for his animated performances and fascinating dives into his experiences and his hometown of Detroit, with some pretty deep ruminations on his life. XXX is Brown coming to grips with turning 30, for example.
Brown’s got a lot to say, and a few personal demons to exorcise, and being in the spotlight only exacerbated his issues. He battled depression, drug addiction, and malaise while being hip-hop’s darling, and his audience was more concerned about him acting a fool for their delight than him getting help. He took some time off over the past few years to chill out and deal with his habits, and last year he returned with his long-awaited fourth album Atrocity Exhibition.
Named for the Joy Division song, Atrocity Exhibition is a terrific album, one which made my ears perk up on first listen back in 2016. It’s a raucous, bleak, and punkish listen, and Brown feels right at home in the woozy mix, reminiscing about dead homies, musing on the state of his life, and nursing his addictions hard. It’s a trippy experience, and the record definitely is worth a close listen.
“Ain’t It Funny” is a cry for help over an overwhelming and frenzied wiseguy-ish beat, feeling like a heart attack. The video for this one, directed by actor Jonah Hill and riffing on old school family sitcoms, is a rather disturbing trip into Danny Brown’s headspace, one which you won’t forget anytime soon. It’s a dope track, and a really dope visual. Check it out.