We’ve heard two years of dynamic singles and features; we’ve coasted through our days, patiently anticipating greatness — and it is now upon us.
Detroit rapper Danny Brown is back with the release of his third full-length LP, “Old.” It’s the second studio album he has released since signing with Fool’s Gold Records in 2010. “Old” follows his 2011 hit album “XXX”, which launched him into underground stardom.
Spin magazine’s top hip-hop album of 2011, “XXX” was particularly popular amongst the expanding realm of “hipsters.” However, on the second track of “Old,” Brown addresses the hipster crowd with a little hostility, “…f*** a hipster, squeeze the trigger.”
It’s really interesting to hear him talk to hipsters in this way, mainly because they’ve played a key role in his rise in popularity, but also because later in this same album, on the track “Lonely”, he seems to contradict himself a little bit, saying he’s a “hipster by heart, but (he) can tell you how the streets feel.”
Brown clearly takes pride in being “different,” but at this point in his career, maybe he’s just trying to distance himself from that hipster image, which has been ravaged by mainstream culture.
Hipster or no hipster, the dude can pump out some tunes. Danny Brown is in a league of his own when it comes to rapping in a personal, self-reflective style. Even Earl Sweatshirt, the storytelling prodigy, can’t hold his own against this guy.
“Old” gradually progresses in production, starting with some simplistic and experimental drumbeats, and moving to more mainstream, electronic and trap-influenced beats on the latter portion. Brown’s voice has an uncanny ability to penetrate heavy trap beats, making them surprisingly enjoyable.
He sets the tone of the album on his opening track, descriptively painting a brutal image of a Michigan household where the oven is the only source of heat and shooting up heroin is the only way curb hunger. The hook rolls through, acknowledging his fans’ insistent demands for that “old Danny Brown,” and not only does he give it to them, but he invites them into his past, revealing how he “snuck in” to the rap game.
The aforementioned second track, titled “The Return”, is said to be a remake of Outkast’s “Return of the G” off of their 1998 LP, “Aquemini.” Maintaining the hostile theme of the song, Brown claims that if anyone tries to keep him from providing for his family, “…we gone have us some discrepancies right here in this street.” Freddie Gibbs, featured on the song, follows up, embodying the “true gangster” motif. He goes so far as to touch on his moral struggles, “Tryna save my soul, I wish the Lord would meet me half way.”
ScHoolboy Q delivers a predictably ignorant verse on “Dope Fiend Rental”, rapping about women landing back flips on his private parts, which he claims are as long as the Brooklyn bridge (5,988 feet).
Canadian electronic duo Purity Ring drops a sultry beat and provides the second part of the hook for the album’s featured track “25 Bucks.” This track is like a nice glass of scotch for me — silky smooth. The beat is one of the best I’ve ever heard Purity Ring produce, and Brown’s verses manage to tell a story while simultaneously calling out racial prejudices.
Brown openly lays out his struggles with drug addiction and stagnant depression throughout the album. The gut-wrenching track “Clean Up” gives a vividly descriptive account of how his addictions have had, and will continue to have, negative effects on his relationship with his family. “Daughter sending me messages saying, ‘Daddy I miss you,’ but in this condition I don’t think she need to see me.”
“Old” is the projection of a man, raised in the doldrums, who is constantly torn between partying and the remorse that follows closely behind it. There’s a little something for everyone here — such a heavy and stellar LP.
Favorite Tracks: Dip, Old, Break It [Go], 25 Bucks, Clean Up, Red 2 Go, The Return, Lonely
Least Favorite Tracks: Kush Coma, Handstand, Way Up Here, Dope Fiend Rental
Related/Influential/Mentioned Albums: Aquemini by Outkast, Doris by Earl Sweatshirt, Shrines by Purity Ring