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Loud Minded: An introduction to Danny Brown

Music columnist William Schmitt on sitting down and listening to 'XXX'

By William Schmitt | Feb. 28, 2013

Tags: Music

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If you listen to hip-hop beyond the Top 40 at all, chances are you already know about the Adderall Admiral. Danny Brown bounces from a nasal staccato to a ruthless bark. In addition to his recent breakthrough as a rapper, his unique fashion sense has gained him the adoration of many a teenage girl. You can research his steez on your own time, but I’m here to talk about his music, of course.

Much like pro sports, rapping is a young man’s game. Decades of writing, recording and performing have strained the messages of hip-hop heroes like Jay-Z, Eminem and Method Man. It takes a certain energy and naiveté to make a commitment to a musical career, but when years of determination are invested, they pay off handily. As far as mainstream rappers go, Brown bloomed late by not becoming a prominent figure until the last three years despite mixtapes such as "Browntown" and "Detroit State of Mind 4."

It’s passion. It’s talent, and it’s luck, and it’s sleepless nights in strange cities. But it's mostly passion that has led to his sudden popularity. The underground started to take notice with The Hybrid in 2010, and Brown blew up properly in 2011 with XXX (the roman numerals, not pornographic hallmark). He lives between vignettes filmed from Detroit’s streets with lenses made of broken 40s and intentionally obnoxious depictions of his stimulant-fueled lifestyle.

He makes songs like “Fields” that conjure images of vacant urban lots and songs like “Blunt After Blunt” that are about exactly what you think they’re about, and he puts them on the same album. He makes songs like “Pac Blood” that make me swear about his skill to my jaded friends who’ve heard it all before and songs like “Bruiser Brigade” that make me say, “Yeah, so what? Island!”

I like the complexity of his music because it reminds me of life’s balance. Brown’s transition from toothless hoodrat to toothless indie sensation has been monumentally swift, and his career has been what happens when keeping it real goes right. He has tracks called “DNA” and “Scrap or Die” based on his experience with drug use and its effect on families. While he talks about smoking weed and cigarettes, drinking to inebriation and snorting crushed Adderall, he acknowledges the health risks of his lifestyle.

So, MOVE readers, while I never know what music you’re into, I assume we have something in common. My ears get around and so do yours. Listen to XXX, and stick with it. Danny structured the album so the first 12 tracks are a party-themed Side A and the final seven are a somber Side B. Keep that in mind when you listen. I’ve laid down a bare foundation for a prospective listener to start with XXX and work backward. To be honest, I started listening when The Hybrid came out, and I like XXX even more. Depending on how much you like hip-hop and what kind of hip-hop you like, you may like one song and you make dozens. However it shakes out, he’s given you an honest album that deserves an honest listen.

A quick note:

Danny Brown has an album coming out sometime this year, entitled Old. Buy it, download it, and shoot a bootlegger. The release date hasn’t been announced, but this man pops around from coast to coast a lot, probably due to all of the prescription drugs he inhales. We should see Old by the end of the year. Some noticeable rappers announced as features include A$AP Rocky and Schoolboy Q. And if you hear one Danny Brown song, listen to “Grown Up”.

Thanks for reading.

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