Would any other rapper alive start their album with a song proclaiming that his fans want the older version of him back? Probably not. But it’s that kind of outlandishness that the world has come to expect from the “Adderall Admiral”, Detroit’s favourite son, Danny Brown. Danny is back with his second (third if you include The Hybrid) full length album, Old. Released recently on Fool’s Gold Records, this is an unusual situation for Danny – where once he was emailing YouTube video-reviewer/blogger/personality The Needle Drop, in the hopes that he’d give his album a review, now he needs to do nothing of the sort as the entire rap world have its eyes on Danny after his 2011 breakthrough release, XXX.
There’s a sense of urgency with this album unlike any other released this year. It’s like Danny couldn’t keep these songs inside him anymore, most notably on the stunning and horrifying track “Torture“. Tales of people being beaten with hammers and lighting crack via stoves. It’s almost like a lyrical version of those videos you see from time to time when trawling the internet. Those videos that you can never forget. While most can sit behind their computer screens and watch people be violently hurt, Danny has experienced these horrors in real life.
Danny is not scared to delve into his past via his lyrics. This was proved on XXX, but it’s even more evident on Old. Whether it be on the almost skit-like “Wonderbread” – detailing a simple trip to the local shop in a way that only Danny Brown can – or “Gremlins” – a song basically about what it’s like to be young in Detroit – no matter what the subject matter, Danny is brutally honest and that is one of the reasons his fans are so rabid and defensive when it comes to his music. Where most rappers would shy away from such personal subjects in favour of talking about “money and b*****s”, Danny Brown is happy to talk about the darkness of his past and still manage to derive humour from these situations.
The centerpiece of the first half of the album is the tender “Lonely“. Danny expresses that, despite people being around him, he still feels like nobody really knows him. It’s quite rare that a rapper will let himself look so vulnerable due to the fact the genre is so machismo driven, so to see someone who is fairly well known now, but still building his name, let himself be seen that way is very refreshing.
All this talk of darkness and realness is not to say that this album isn’t fun. “Red 2 Go” is the perfect lead in to the insane ‘Side B’ of the album and nearly every song from here on out is a riot starter. “Dope Song” and “Dip” will probably be the biggest songs of next years festival circuit – they are tailor made for a bunch of drunk/high teens to lose their minds to – but Danny manages to surprise again, by ending this side of the album (and the album as a whole) with the wonderful “Float On” featuring Charli XCX, a song that has Danny claim that he just wants to get old to see his influence on the genre. This is where the real brilliance of this album shines through. Despite all of the unrelenting darkness of some portions, so much joy can be found in others. It’s easy to make a consistently happy record or a consistently sad record, but to make an album that can take you to both extreme highs and extreme lows, that’s really something special.
Unlike XXX, Old has a plethora of features from the rap world and beyond. TDE’s Ab-Soul and ScHoolboy Q both turn in star guest spots on “Way Up Here” and the vicious “Dope Fiend Rental” respectively. A$AP Rocky turns up for an okay, if forgettable verse on “Kush Coma” while Purity Ring are a nice addition too with their airy sound complimenting Danny’s raps about his old life, brilliantly on the standout “25 Bucks“. One of my most anticipated songs was “The Return” simply because Freddie Gibbs was turning in a feature and this may be my favourite track on the album as two apparently so different rappers (public personas, fan base) come together so brilliantly to show that despite the love Danny gets from the hipster crowd, he can do gangsta rap with the best of them. The coolest feature was British Grime MC Scrufizzer on “Dubstep”. Danny’s fascination with Grime music has been long known to fans of his and to put a fairly unknown young rapper on such a monumental record is a testament to his real love of this genre.
The production on the album is nothing short of outstanding. Paul White is sure to be a very sought after producer very soon, but I hope he is like SKYWLKR and collaborates mainly with Danny. They seem to have a real chemistry in the studio. A-Trak’s sole production credit on the album is for the pounding “Smokin’ & Drinkin” and it’s exactly what you’d expect from an A-Trak/Danny Brown collaboration.
Old is a triumph. Danny could have put out a number of mixtapes in the build up to capitalise on his XXX hype, but he waited two years, took his time and put together an album that would fit into any era of Hip-Hop music and be absolutely adored. Is it perfect? No. But it’s not meant to be. It’s imperfections add to its greatness. The one line that sums this album up perfectly is, “Granny used to tell me ‘stay out of in’“, so a huge thank you to Danny Brown’s grandmother. If it wasn’t for her telling him to stay out of the in-crowd, we might not have one of the most exciting and best rappers in the world.