Danny Brown’s beautiful dark twisted reality

Danny Brown’s beautiful dark twisted reality

Thomas Parsons

Photo courtesy of Fools Gold Records

dannybrown_courtesyoffoolsgoldrecords

In 2001, the iPod debuted and with the exception of a few notable releases, people listened to singles and not full albums. However, streaming services like Spotify and Grooveshark have changed this. Now, musicians feel more comfortable making cohesive records. One of which is the chilling concept album Old by Detroit-based rapper Danny Brown.

The title on this album refers to how people kept asking Danny for that “Old Danny Brown” style of music that they claim he steered away from. So, like a vinyl record or a cassette, he split the album into two sides. Side A has that “Old Danny Brown” style while side B is his signature post-fame, high-pitched style. The beats on both sides of the album, however, are completely new.

Danny has some of the most insane production in today’s alternative rap. It’s dark, it’s big, and it’s fantastic. There’s a significant amount of influence from the British rap scene. Nearly half the album is produced by the London-based producer, Paul White and the song Dubstep even features the Grime artist Scrufizzer. Other features include Charli XCX, Purity Ring, A$AP Rocky, and ScHoolboy Q. As for the beats, they come from all over, pulling influence from trap rap, west coast rap, Detroit rap, dubstep and Grime.

Side A of this record exposes Danny’s origins. It narrates the story of growing up in a dangerous part of Detroit. He includes haunting lyrics about a horrific yet very real place full of food stamps, crack cocaine, and gunshots. One of the most daunting descriptions of this world is on the track “Wonderbread,” where he raps about a trip to the drugstore. His mom sent him to pick up a loaf of bread and a bottle of soda. On his way, he meets a crackhead, a prostitute, and two boys who rob and beat him just to take his groceries.

Side A continues with the songs “Dope Fiend Rental,” “Torture,” and “Lonely,” where Danny explains how later on he became a drug dealer and the agony that accompanied it. Side A ends with the banger track “Red 2 Go,” a song about the day Danny takes a greyhound bus headed to New York to make it as a rapper.

This brings us to Side B. These tracks describe his most recent years of success as a rapper. This half of the album basically centers on Danny doing drugs and having sex. There’s a lot of misogyny in this last half, but it is necessary to the story. Danny’s objectification of women along with his addiction to MDMA are his way of coping with the horrors that he dealt with growing up.

Side B closes with the track “Float On” where Danny explains that he makes music for the influence and not for the money. He just wants to live long enough to see how he has changed rap music. But at the same he time realizes that, with all the drugs he’s doing, it might be unlikely.

Old is one big rags to riches story – but the story does not have a happy ending. Even in his success, there’s a feeling that he’s not content. Danny is successful, but remains haunted by his past.

The album as a whole is very well executed. The beats are spot on, the story is compelling, and the uniqueness of Danny’s style tops it off. Old might not be for everyone, but those who are willing to look past the senseless violence, drugs, and sex will not go unrewarded. They are seamless additions to this tragic, beautiful, autobiographical concept album.

Favorite tracks: Side A [Old], Torture, Lonely, Dip, Kush Coma, Float On