Top 5: Danny Brown
Year-End Top 5
Danny Brown = Dizzee Rascal + Wu-Tang Clan + Bootie Brown
Right from the first track (“Side A [Old]”), it’s obvious that this ain’t that old Danny Brown shit. He takes us there, into his old life—his mom braiding hair on the front porch (“25 Bucks”) and a crackhead burning off his lip doing stove hits (“Torture”). But this is new territory for Brown. Old strays from the minimalist and vocal-centric emphasis of XXX and the ’90s-worship of The Hybrid, and shows that Brown is as versatile and conceptual as ever. Old is more put-together, more focused around each song’s vibe or story. Dope fiends and heavy, millennial hip-hop beats abound on the first half of the record. “Red 2 Go” switches it up with a manic back beat and light, lilting instrumentals—it’s preparation for the second half of the album: “Side B [Dope Song]” plunges us into some real trap shit, replete with guttural Lil Jon–style shouts and screwed vocals as Brown sinks in a hedonistic sea of drugs, synth and pussy. “Dip,” “Smokin & Drinkin” and “Break It [Go]” delve deep into endless nights of codeine double-cuppin’, MDMA and unspeakable sex acts. Danny Brown’s vision and delivery transcend his subject matter, though. Stellar production by Purity Ring, SKYWLKR, Paul White and others, coupled with Brown’s humor and inventiveness, keeps Old from devolving into simple masturbatory rap boasting and achieves modern rap art. The last track, “Float On,” gives a much needed come-down, as Charli XCX harmonizes with Brown’s screwed chorus over a melancholy organ and a minimal beat. It’s a backseat ride home after a long night, and it melts the album together into one cohesive picture—Old is at once wild, unnerving, disturbing and transcendent. –Cody Kirkland
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