Release Date: Sep 25, 2012
Record label: Okayplayer
Genre(s): Rap, Alternative Rap, Underground Rap
South Carolina rapper Danny Swain shoots clever satiric spitballs from the hip-hop margins. On "Shit Starters," from his debut album for Questlove's Okayplayer label, he does a mock Rick Ross flow over a Timbaland influenced groove: "I'm Seinfeld/Larry David/This beat I made sounds very dated." But eighty minutes of gripes about label persecution and insufficiently positive reviews feels like celeb whining from someone who isn’t famous. Listen to 'Playback' .
Danny! :: PaybackInterscope RecordsAuthor: Steve 'Flash' JuonHere we are again with Mr. Daniel Swain, a talented recording artist whose travails in the tumultuous music industry we've been chronicling since he dropped "Charm" in 2006. At one point his stock had risen so high that indie imprint darling Definitive Jux signed him to a deal; ironically they could never give the rapper nor anyone else a definitive record release date for his album.
How to rebound from being the next big thing that never was? That's the central question for Danny Swain on his seventh studio album, Payback. Lauded early on for an expansive vocabulary and a metacritical sense of humor about the hip-hop industry, Swain combined a puckish persona with serious flow, recording under a hipster-inflected, exclamatory moniker that reads like an Aziz Ansari joke. But he never managed a proper commercial breakthrough, and various industry slights are the subject of his latest effort.
Payback finds Danny!, seven albums into his career, feeling disenfranchised from and disillusioned with the rap industry, and after dealing with album delays, remaking whole albums, and watching other rappers' stars rise using the same D.I.Y. approach to promotion that the MC and producer helped to pioneer in the Internet era, it's easy to see why. Now, with the backing of ?uestlove's Okayplayer label, Danny! is seizing upon his opportunity for catharsis, delivering an album of tightly produced meditations on the state of the industry.
I can’t recommend Payback to lovers of hip-hop enough. Its reverence for classic-era hip-hop, from the “Myintrotoletuknow” sample on “Silly Me” to the “Guess Who’s Back” reference on “Little Black Boy”, which occur in just the first three tracks and are cleverly referential without pandering to a crowd that might prefer those eras, is probably enough of a selling point. That sort of stuff is scattered throughout Payback, and as an album it’s notable for its reverence of hip-hop as an artistic platform.
My favourite thing about this record is that Danny! (that exclamation mark annoys me too) is clearly besotted with other hip hop artists, yet also original in his own way. There’s hints of Kanye on the first track Overture, an overlong strings and trumpets piece that has the odd sample of an angelic female singing various syllables of “Bay-bee,” all backed up by Danny! repeating a plea for divine forgiveness in that machine like style. There’s appropriations of Eminem’s lyrics on Myintrotoletyouknow and Even Louder and a definite hint of The Roots throughout the album, possibly why Danny! was signed to ?uestlove’s (that question mark annoys me too) label.
Danny! (a.k.a. Danny Swain) raps with braggadocio over his contemporaries throughout Payback. He calls out Childish Gambino’s popularity on “Even Louder” and questions Wiz Khalifa’s preferences on “Go That-a-Way”. Razzes aside, the record is more about the recognition he craves, and any arrogance on Payback is tempered by solid storytelling.