By Rick Polo (Editor-In-Chief)
Artist: Danny Brown
Release Date: 10/8/13
Indie-rapper Danny Brown has certainly done his homework. As one of the leaders of the genre’s underground movement, just bubbling beneath the mainstream, Brown has gained some serious momentum over the course of his discography. With Old, his newly released third album, he’s again successfully smashed his own boundaries with one of the year’s most well-rounded and enjoyable rap albums.
Brown first hit the scene in 2010 with his ground-breaking debut, The Hybrid. After releasing the near-perfect XXX in late 2011 and stealing the show on featured tracks of the previous two EL-P records, Brown delivered Old in early October, again taking the rap world by brutal force.
Brown took a unique old school approach to the construction of Old, dividing it into two “sides,” as a traditional vinyl would, with two different vibes. Side A, titled “Old,” lives up to its title somewhat. It has a laid back, old school hip-hop vibe with soulful samples and grooving beats. Following opening tracks “Side A (Old)” and “The Return,” the album begins to show its chops, beginning with the third track, “25 Bucks,” which features Brown’s group, Purity Ring. The track seeps with Brown’s lyrical genius. From there, tracks like “Torture” and “Lonely” paint a more vulnerable portrait of Brown, with very self-actualizing and introspective lyrics. A trait not typical among many mainstream rappers.
Side B, titled “Dope Song,” has a high-energy, almost live feel to it. Also certainly not an approach taken by many modern rap artists, as their live performances are merely lip-synced over a pre-recorded beat. No, as those who’ve attended any of the summer festivals of which Brown performed this summer, he’s abrasive and in-your-face.
The second side of Old reflects that, especially with the lead single, “Dip.” The energetic performance factor reels the listener in from the start with an infectious up-tempo dance beat that will make you almost want to slam dance along with it. Fellow tracks “Smokin’ & Drinkin'” and “Handstand” keep the party going, until another stand-out track, “Kush Koma,” featuring talented newcomer A$AP Rocky, takes hold. As many of the songs on Old, “Kush Koma” presents a lyrical juxtaposition to the vigorous music that accompanies it. Brown’s realization of his own debauchery, and the toll it takes on his soul, make up the lyrics on the almost depressing tune. Finally, Old ends on an even more somber note, with the beautiful “Float On,” featuring Charli XCX.
When it comes to honestly, Danny Brown holds nothing back. Like contemporaries Kendrick Lamar and Tyler, the Creator, Brown is not afraid to shed light on his vulnerability, nor is he hesitant to admit to the not-so-flattering aspects of his life. However, he does so in such an earnest and beautiful way, you come to realize that he’s just giving his version of the blues. And with all the raw emotional and powerful songwriting, Old, in a modern sense, is as bluesy as it gets.