ALBUM REVIEW: Danny Brown – Old

Old artwork
Old artwork

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ARTIST Danny Brown

ALBUM Old

LABEL Fool’s Gold

RELEASE DATE 8 October 2013

8.9 | 10

Danny Brown is one of the more curious cases in hip-hop. Generally a young man’s game, (although Jay Z is bucking that trend) it’s rare to see a rapper begin his ascent to stardom in their thirties. But that is the path Brown has taken to get him to where he is today. For his first major league at-bat, Brown proves to his largest audience yet what followers have been aware of since “Juno”; this guy is insanely brilliant, or maybe it’s brilliantly insane? Either way, Old is an emphatic reminder that Danny Brown didn’t happen upon success accidentally, that he’s had large obstacles in front of him all his life, and he’s taken them all down.

Old is presented in two parts, the old school rap first half and the electronically dictated second half. While other artists have attempted similar feats, Brown is able to live comfortably in both worlds, proving just as thrilling and vital rapping about the dangers of going out for Wonderbread as he does taking a large dose of molly. “They want the old Danny Brown,” he raps on the opening “Side A (Old).” That line is delivered with such tenacity, it’s as if he’s telling the audience, “You can have that old Danny Brown, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Following that opening salvo is “The Return,” which features an utterly hypnotic production, and a guest verse from Freddie Gibbs that sits nicely next to Brown’s rhymes. The previously reported on “25 Bucks” features Purity Ring, and is largely successful due to Brown allowing the duo to hold the reigns on the production, crafting a tune that sounds undeniably like Purity Ring, but with a few hip-hop flourishes to offer a slight differentiation from their previous music. It’s one of the most intense performances from Brown on Old, and it’s one of the best songs of 2013, period.

A lot of the first half of Old is predicated on dark undertones, with tracks such as “Gremlins,” “Dope Fiend Rental,” and “Torture” taking a turn towards Brown’s darkest impulses. And what he does with peanut butter on “Torture,” well let’s just say it’s enough to make even Kanye West blush, or at the very least wish he thought of it first.

The second half of Old is an unapologetically up-tempo affair, gaining inspiration from the EDM-fueled festival circuit. SKYWLKR and Rustie and A-Trak stop by to offer up production credits, and all deliver fantastic instrumentals. “Side B (Dope Song)” is, to put it frankly, a monster. Brown sounds decidedly bonkers during the verses, before delving deep into his low register as he shouts “dope song” during the chorus. Directly following is “Dubstep,” another fantastic cut, albeit a nice comedown after the manic euphoria of “Dope Song.” “I had them dubs on the step,” he sing-raps on the hook, over a shimmering, rippling production. Perhaps the biggest revelation on the entirety of Old is Scruffizer’s confidently insane closing verse on “Dubstep.” When Danny Brown raps later on “Float On” about his desire to see his music influence future generations, he only needs to look at how far he pushes his guests to deliver their most rewarding and memorable verses to see just how much influence he already has.

“Dip” and “Smokin & Drinkin” are going to become trap staples. While “Dip” samples the highly memorable Freak Nasty cut “Da’ Dip,” (as well as an interpolation of The Throne’s “Niggas In Paris”) “Smokin & Drinkin” only sounds like a sample, because it’s so addictive it seems like a no-brainer that someone would have made this song already. But no one has, because no one would have the balls to tackle the assaulting production in the way Brown does. “Handstand” makes a star out of producer Darq E Freaker, with his dizzying production one of brightest highlights on the entire album. People are clamoring for the old Danny Brown, he insisted on the opening “Side A (Old).” He gives people their fair share of the old DB, while sprinkling in that new DB throughout as well. By the time he releases his next studio album/mixtape, I’m sure people will still be hounding for that Old Danny Brown.

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