To understand Danny Brown’s latest album, we must first understand Danny Brown. A few fun facts about the rapper:
Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Danny Brown has seen some things and isn’t afraid to talk about it.
He’s been described by MTV as “one of rap’s most unique figures in recent history.” Maybe its the nearly inch-wide gap between his two front teeth, the in-your-face lyrics, or the fact that he’s been banned from entering Canada.
It’s been rumored that Brown was denied a music deal with 50 Cent’s label ‘G-Unit’ after 50 Cent couldn’t handle his flamboyant clothing choices.
Infamous for participating in a sexual act with a female fan on stage during a live performance. Brown’s response to this incidence? “It takes two to tango.”
On the chorus of Old’s first song, “Side A,” Danny Brown raps “They want that old Danny Brown.” But 30 seconds into the song, I already preferred the new Danny Brown. Sure, I like a couple of old Danny Brown songs like “Monopoly,” “Grown Up,” and “XXX,” but when I heard “Side A,” I immediately knew it was the best thing Danny Brown has done.
The second and third songs, “The Return (feat. Freddie Gibbs)” and “25 Bucks (feat. Purity Ring)” gave me the impression that Old was going to be an amazing album, putting it in league with Run the Jewels, Acid Rap, and Yeezus as one of the best rap albums of the year. On these first three songs, Brown toned down his characteristic and often annoying shrill shouting, and it allowed his lyrical skills to finally shine through.
Then, “Wonderbread” came on. About a minute into the song, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I skipped to the next song. While I usually don’t find Danny Brown’s voice to be as annoying as many people complain, I couldn’t deal with his shrill, nasal voice mixed with the bouncy, poppy beat.
The rest of the album, while not as bad as “Wonderbread,” was a bit disappointing after listening to the first three songs. Songs like “Dope Fiend Rental,” “Gremlin,” and “Torture” aren’t too bad, but they’re nothing spectacular. They don’t provide anything new to Brown’s repertoire. If you were a huge fan of his previous album XXX, then Old is really going to please you. But if you were just a dabbler in Brown’s music, as I was, Old won’t do much to impress you. There are a couple of gems on the album, but overall it’s a pretty mediocre endeavor.
Despite the rapper’s comical facade and the light-hearted and vastly inappropriate lyrics from his previous albums, Old contains songs from his violent past in Detroit, with tracks like “Torture,” which includes lyrics such as:
“Back when I was living on Flanders/Seen another dope fiend beat another with a hammer.”
It’s interesting to see a serious side to Brown, who bases much of his music off of his ridiculous sexual exploits and drug usage (see track 18 on the album: ‘Kush Coma’).
But, of course, we get to hear some classic Danny Brown raps. Tracks like “Wonderbread” and “Handstand” attack the listener’s eardrums with half-screamed lyrics, hyped up beats, and comically explicit language.
At the same time, Brown incorporates many experimental production techniques that truly prove his interest in growing as a musician. “25 Bucks” features the hypnotica/electronic Canadian duo, Purity Ring, whose soft and trance-like beats have gained them recent popularity among underground music fanatics. Old also features other big names like A$AP Rocky (an underground rapper turned music star) and Charlie XCX (A sassy and grungy diva from England).
The odd mixture of immature tomfoolery and grave reflections into Danny’s past makes for an interesting album, to say the least. But while the individual tracks can be quite enjoyable, the album as a whole is a bit confused. Overall, it is a success for Brown. Already following the trends of legends like Kanye West, Brown is destined for greatness in the music industry, and Old is his battle-cry as he officially enters the fray.