Words About Music
Danny Brown “Old”
Back in 2010, Detroit underground rapper Danny Brown surprised a league of hip hop heads with his debut album “The Hybrid,” which contained the first examples of his signature high-pitched squawk of a voice that has captivated and confused so many music lovers. A year later he dropped what I personally consider one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time, “XXX,” which is a concept album that deals with Danny’s raucous sex-drugs-and-partying lifestyle, as well as the horrific consequences. He’s been supporting this album with a few EPs, singles, guest verses, and extensive world touring as well as widespread critical acclaim, all of which is deserved. He’s worked with Action Bronson, Flatbush Zombies, A$AP Rocky, Kitty, and even has his own Bruiser Brigade crew. For almost a year, fans have been anticipating what would be Danny’s third studio album. It was initially rumored to be called “Danny Johnson,” then “ODB,” which stands for Ol’ Danny Brown but references the comparisons to the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and then the official title which is “Old.”
“Old” is a 19-track hour long behemoth that mirrors the narrative we first see in “XXX.” While “XXX” begins as a barrage of party anthems that later delves into more serious topics, “Old” is the opposite. Side A features more cloudy, smooth beats (courtesy of producers such as Paul White, Oh No, and SKYWLKR) underneath Danny’s “serious” voice. These are not party songs by any means, but they still show Danny Brown as an incredibly versatile lyricist and rapper. Even when he sounds more goofy like on “Wonderbread” he is still bringing serious topics to the table, specifically his past as a drug dealer and his current life as a father.
The amazing thing about “Old” is that it progresses in such a fascinating way. Even though “Red 2 Go” is the last song on Side A, it still seems like it’s preparing you for what you’re going to hear on Side B. “Is anybody worried? Is anybody nervous? Is anybody scared?” asks Danny in an almost mocking tone during the chorus. At this point in the album Danny has taken some considerable risks, including rapping over an OutKast beat on the track “The Return.” Fun fact: this album was dropped on the 15th anniversary of OutKast’s “Aquemini,” the album where we first heard the beat in question. I would also like to mention Purity Ring’s contribution as producer and guest singers on the track “25 Bucks” which is absolutely incredible. Never thought I’d enjoy Danny over a synth beat so much. Also Schoolboy Q had a great verse on “Dope Fiend Rental,” which happened to have a great beat and very compelling lyrics.
Side B is straight bangers until the very end. It opens up with “Side B (Dope Song),” which in the chorus Danny says is “my last dope song.” And from there it is just nonstop high-energy trap-flavored hip hop straight from the Book Of Trap, which I assume is just Gucci Mane’s lean-inspired tweets. Danny raps about molly (“Dip”), sexy women (“Handstand”), and pot (“Kush Coma”) over some of the hardest beats he’s ever rapped over. And I know you’re probably rolling your eyes at the sight of a molly song, but the general rule of Danny Brown is if he mentions a drug, he’s probably sold it or done it. He even mentions the recent influx of insincere molly references when he says “Now all these rappers talkin’ bout that molly/Bet a million dollars these niggas ain’t dippin'” on the track “Dip.” Guest verses from up-and-coming British grime rapper Scrufizzer and established artists Ab-Soul and A$AP Rocky all help to bring this excellent album to its unexpected close.
“Old” closes with a surprisingly calm track that sounds like it belongs on Side A, but when you think about it he’s doing what he did on “XXX” where he closed off the serious side with an insane emotional track that combines drug Danny and serious Danny. Here he closes off the album with “Float On,” which features some lush guest vocals from British pop singer Charli XCX.
Lyrically, “Old” shows Danny at his most mature. Even when he’s rapping about all the drugs he’s done he is still sounding much more matured and knowledgable than the guy who gave us “I Will” two short years ago. Production-wise, “Old” almost seems like it’s ahead of its time. Whether he’s sampling stoner rock or spitting over witch house and cloud rap, Danny can work with pretty much any beat that’s thrown at him. I’m beginning to think the man can do no wrong, and “Old” definitely doesn’t show any signs that he can do any wrong, because nothing on “Old” was done wrong. Danny did exactly what he wanted to do, and he did so in a way that will introduce fans to new sounds and ideas while still retaining the Danny style by upping the ante when it comes to the parties. You almost forget you’re listening to one rapper at some points, especially when you go from a song like “Kush Coma” to a song like “Float On.” If any artist in the entire rap game has the potential to outdo Kanye, it’s Danny Brown. Until then, we have testaments to his brilliance right here. Danny is here to stay.
SCORE – 10
FAVORITE TRACKS – All of them