Release Date: Sep 27, 2016
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Rap, Alternative Rap, Underground Rap, Midwest Rap
The snaggle-toothed Detroit rapper has previously dabbled in grime, ghettotech and other esoteric styles, but his new LP goes further still – sketching out uncharted territory for hip-hop with the gonzo penmanship of Robert Crumb or Ralph Steadman. Really Doe and Pneumonia show he can do hook-filled hits, and Lost is a Madlibian bit of butterfly-chasing, but there’s stuff here that no other MC is attempting: on Paul White productions like Ain’t It Funny and Dance in the Water, the vibe is like Captain Beefheart manically attacking a to-do list. Brown is fixated as ever on drugs and sex, keeping bulging cartoonish imagery in pithy equilibrium – “So much coke / Take a sniff need a ski lift”; “licked the clit and she did the Macarena” – and his voice, agitatedly squawking and yet dainty as a ballerina, is one of contemporary music’s greatest pleasures.
Danny Brown is a weird dude in all the best ways. There are few rappers who come across as unhinged as he does at his most reserved. Atrocity Exhibition, his newest full length, finds him comfortable: fast as hell and all over the sonic spectrum.Itâ€™s hard to talk about Danny Brown without mentioning his past. He's sold drugs but done more.
Unlike other cities, Detroit’s hip-hop community lacks homogeneity. In the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, J Dilla molded the Soulquarian soundscapes of Erykah Badu, Common, and the Roots through his idiosyncratic soul samples and iconic bass lines. Following on his heels was Eminem, one of the most popular emcees of all time, repping his neighborhood of 8 Mile in the heart of Detroit whilst serving up plate after plate of hip-hop hilarity, domestic violence and insanity all in equal measure.
Danny Brown's first Warp release is named after a Joy Division song inspired by writer J.G. Ballard's collection of the same title. "Notes Towards a Mental Breakdown," one of the chapters in the Ballard book, would have been just as apt an inscription on an album that looks more like a mid-'80s 12" designed by Neville Brody than anything classified as hip-hop.
Danny Brown :: Atrocity ExhibitionWarp RecordsAuthor: Patrick TaylorDanny Brown mostly raps about getting high and having sex, and yet he's one of the more insightful rappers around. He's an indie rapper who raps like a street rapper, a street rapper who works with off-kilter electronic beats and names his album after a song by seminal British post-punk band Joy Division. I've been a lifelong hip-hop fan and a fan of Joy Division since the 80s, and this is the first time in memory that the two have crossed.
Danny Brown is an auteur. Hip-hop has a tradition of collaboration, but the Detroit rapper is a one-man show who, while he reps his own Bruiser Brigade and works frequently with a handful of producers, has a voice and vision completely his own. You can think of his progression over the last five years in filmic terms. If 2011’s XXX was the brilliant independent foreign film that was critically acclaimed and wildly successful and put him on the map, Old was the solid but safer domestic version, with higher production costs, a prettier cast, and many of the edges sanded off.
There’s no one else in hip-hop like Danny Brown. His frenzied rhyme style and nasal voice are instantly recognisable. Heavily influenced by grime and other electronic music, as well as punk—and based in Detroit, a long way from today’s Southern rap nuclei—he’s an ingenious derelict locked out of the mainstream rap fraternity and all the better for it.
When you look at the rap landscape, there’s no-one quite like Danny Brown - past or present. Whether it’s his personality, his lyrics or even his success, Danny Brown is a true outlier and it continues to make him all the more interesting as he drops his fourth album, Atrocity Exhibition. He’s a man that revels in contradiction; who defies all traditional hip-hop expectations.
Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition, the title of which is taken from J.G. Ballard’s collection of intertwining short stories of the same name, is structured around dichotomies: paranoia and lucidity, living and dying, British industrial music and Detroit hip-hop, self-medication and “fun”—and the distinctions are often irreducible. While his last two albums, XXX and Old, share Atrocity Exhibition‘s themes of despair and resignation, they were still seen by a portion of his audience as an encouragement to party, thus overlooking Brown’s dejected introspection.
Atrocity Exhibition may be Danny Brown’s fourth LP, but the Detroit rapper doesn’t look at it that way. “I feel like this is the first Danny Brown album,” he said, ahead of his latest release. This view makes sense, too. It can often take an artist several albums to really find their groove – a sentiment clearly echoed by Brown.
On the first song from his breakthrough album, XXX, Danny Brown declared: “I took a while to get here now I depend on these drugs” — a statement that functioned as both summation and confession. On his new album, Atrocity Exhibition, pitched as a narrative successor to XXX, Danny Brown is older, more famous, and most importantly, more narcotized. The survival strategies that propelled him to stardom — a monomaniacal dedication to rapping and drug-dealing, a taste for drugs and alcohol, and an unshakeable desire to transcend — have become dense and knotted, fattened up by the trappings of fame.
Detroit MC Danny Brown continues to sidle up rap’s Mount Rushmore on his own unpredictable path. The title hat-tips both Joy Division and the continuing “freakshow” of Brown’s drug-interrupted existence, which he inspects, fascinated, with a singular combination of scouring honesty, irrepressible intelligence and barely concealed horror. Downward Spiral introduces more tales of everyday psychosis, made mesmerising by Brown’s strung-out yelp, riper than month-old Époisses.
On Atrocity Exhibition, Danny Brown is better than he's ever been. Like its title implies, the album is disorderly and unkempt, but don't despair — Brown is very deliberate in his deviance, and the risks pay off.Although Brown has always coloured outside of the lines with regards to his sound, Exhibition flips between genres at such a quick pace that it's hard to categorize. It's a hodgepodge of hip-hop, punk, grime and even faint hints of disco, and each track is a vast departure from the one before it.
Danny Brown is sweating, paranoid and isolated inside the dark room he has locked himself inside of for three days. He's hearing things, and visualizing others, making blurry figures out of shadows, trapped somewhere within a downward spiral when we join him amongst minimal industrial production. It's alarming to find him here again - in a substance-induced pile of his own state.
After a year of blockbuster records and blustering surprise drops, the history books will look favourably on Danny Brown. Atrocity Exhibition is the Detroit rapper's fourth studio album, and he's taken his time getting here. Mid-2015 he told fans he was too far "ahead of schedule," and that although he'd finished this album, he didn't feel like dropping it just yet.
The fourth album from Detroit's Danny Brown is the year's most thrilling cry for help. With his 2011 breakthrough XXX, the "Adderall Admiral" built an intense indie fanbase thanks to a quirky off-kilter flow about his various vices. While Atrocity Exhibition is stuffed like a piñata with colorful addictions – "Mimosa for breakfast/With a thick ho from Texas" he sort-of-boasts on the chugging "Golddust" – its also teeming with the isolation, paranoia and regrets you could expect from a rap album named after a Joy Division song.
“I gotta figure it out,” Danny Brown yelps on ‘Atrocity Exhibition’’s opener, “It’s the downward spiral.” More than just a hark back to breakthrough record ‘XXX’, it’s a knowing nod to ‘Atrocity Exhibition’’s quick descent into the darker passages of Danny’s psyche. Penned in the wake of the rocket-speed success brought about by 2013’s ‘Old’, ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ finds Danny Brown wrestling with his outsider status at all times. It manifests itself in multiple ways.
If you consider yourself a fan of Detroit rapper Danny Brown, you’re probably used to defending his music. The most telling line of his career, when he defined himself as a “hipster by heart but I can tell you how the streets feel,” is ultimately more indicative of his weird side than it is his considerable experience in the Detroit streets. Whether it’s his voice (sometimes a maniacal squawk, sometimes a rabid bark), his WTF lines (“Bitch pussy smell like a penguin!”), or his taste for off-kilter beats, Brown just does things differently, and he’s divisive because of it.
Danny Brown is tired of being himself. When the wild-haired Detroit rapper burst on the scene five years ago with XXX, his startling, pained delivery was a last grasp for the fame that had eluded him to that point. He got his wish. Brown quickly became the thinking man's ignorant rapper, expressing the joys of cunnilingus and adderall one minute, name dropping Arthur Lee (of Love) and Darq E Freaker the next.
The Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has many flaws. Although early editions (most notably the 3rd) helped the psychiatric field find a footing in the 21st century, providing accessible common language interpretation of various mental illnesses, the text has only become more pedantic and convoluted in recent times. It’s expansive in its inclusion but narrow in its categorization: it’s hard to gauge severity, distinguish between persistent and fleeting issues or just diagnose someone in general.
This is an excellent and refreshingly tense album that’s already being hailed as a masterpiece in some quarters from people who really, really want you to know that they know where it’s coming from. A streetwise rapper you can party to who also openly loves post-punk and Forever Changes and names an album after a Joy Division song? You can practically see the indie critics wetting themselves. Not that they shouldn’t be.
Danny Brown 'Atrocity Exhibition' (Warp)Inspired by Björk, Joy Division and System Of A Down, ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ is Danny Brown’s Warp debut, having left Fool’s Gold due to “creative freedom” restraints. The Detroit-born punk-rapper enlists some colossal guest features: ‘Really Doe’ with Kendrick Lamar is raucous and rowdy, Evian Christ’s production pushes ‘Pneumonia’ to its invasive limits and future-r’n’b star Kelela gifts her soul over ‘From The Ground’. Elsewhere, ‘Downward Spiral’ is a bad trip bursting with clanging drums, ‘Ain’t It Funny’ boasts Brown’s unmatchable flow and closer ‘Hell For It’ is a powerful mission statement.
Cocaine is a hell of a drug. If anyone can capture the thrills and the terror of getting high, it’s Detroit rapper Danny Brown. Listening to the sludgy opener on his fourth album, you imagine him stumbling around a decaying basement couch in a wayward bathrobe. The song’s entitled Downward Spiral, and the lyrics (and title) pretty much paint the picture.
Danny Brown is a man in limbo who is struggling to find balance. In song he’s autobiographical, often flipping between zonked out and deadly serious, usually in existential crisis. He teeters between drug dealer and user, caught in a cycle of intense lows and overwhelming highs. His last album, 2013’s Old, was literally split into halves exploring these dynamics, and how his troubled past guaranteed an uncertain future.
After Danny Brown dropped his avant-garde album, Old, in 2013, it was clear Detroit’s very own was on a different wave in comparison to his rap counterparts. Three years after its release, his new studio LP, Atrocity Exhibition, is another off the wall offering not for the hip-hop faint of heart. The rapper has always been known to push the sonic boundaries of rap music to their most contorted limits and this album is ultimately its breaking point.