Words by Tobias Handke.
Danny Brown’s Old has been one of my most anticipated releases of 2013 and I’m pretty damn stoked to let you know it lives up to all expectations.
Since the release of 2011’s vulgar and personal XXX, an album the Detroit native told Pitchfork was written to garner good reviews, Brown has been steadily honing his craft and collaborating and touring with like minded artists, resulting in Old.
On the surface, Old appears a contradiction of styles and ideas, with random guest spots and a multitude of different producers, but Brown is very much in control of the albums destiny. Put simply, Old is an album of two halves. Brown uses the first ten tracks to take listeners on a journey through the drug addled streets of his hometown, with the downtrodden production of UK producer Paul White and Alchemist collaborator Oh No highlighting Brown’s heavy lyrical content.
The charging ‘Side A (Old)’ starts things off, setting the scene for Hybrid-era Brown. ‘The Return’ features a tight verse from Freddie Gibbs, who you could argue betters Brown and is an ode to Outkast’s ‘Return Of The G’, while ‘Lonely’ finds Brown in reflective mode, discussing his time selling dope. The troubling ‘Torture’ is an early highlight that features Brown at his introspective best, discussing how hard he finds it to forget the things he’s seen throughout his life in Detroit.
Things ramp up during the second stanza of Old, with Brown embracing EMD producers like SKYWLKR, Rustie and A-Trak for a collection of tracks that channel the molly taking club scene environment that’s taken rap by storm. Brown’s signature high pitched yelp comes to the front during the frantic ‘Smokin & Drinkin’, while ‘Handstand’ is classic Brown, with lyrics you wouldn’t say to your mother. Brown even hooks up with UK rapper Scrufizzer for ‘Dubstep’, a track that says it all in the title.
Along with Gibbs and Scrufizzer, Brown enlists the help of some of his favourite rappers, including ScHoolboy Q (‘Dope Fiend Rental’), Ab-Soul (‘Way Up Here’) and A$AP Rocky (on personal favourite ‘Kush Coma’), but it’s the who’s who of the indie world that demonstrates Brown’s adaptability. While Charli XCX provides little more than the chorus on ‘Float On’, his team up with Purity Ring on ‘25 Bucks’ is sonically lush, with Brown’s energetic raps perfectly suited to Corin Roddick’s snare heavy production and Megan James’ harmonious vocals.
While it might be a big call, and one sure to get people ripping this review to shreds, Old may just be Brown’s own Good Kid M.A.A.D. City. While Kendrick Lamar and Brown share nothing similar apart from personal and intricate wordplay, Old is as important to today’s hip-hop as Lamar’s major label debut. Not only does Old follow through on the hype, but it’s an adventurous album chock full of insightful lyrics, exhilarating guest spots and sublime production, with Brown’s infectious personality ever present.
At the age of 32, Danny Brown may just be hip-hops most unlikely star.
Score a copy of Old on October 8 via iTunes.