Release Date: Oct 4, 2019
Record label: Warp
This could well have something to do with having certified hip hop royalty Q-Tip helming the project - a signal of his standing at the epicentre of the left-field hip-hop sphere. The album is reminiscent of Brown's pre-XXX work; less jarringly experimental, or festival crowd pandering, and more grounded in a familiar hip-hop tradition. In many ways it's a similar approach to what was attempted on the first half of Old - a hark back to his early days - but spiked with a sense of fun that was missing from that particular project.
Danny Brown's breakout album came the year he turned 30. Now that he's closing in on 40, he doesn't seem to be settling into an elder-statesman role; judging by his new album uknowhatimsayin¿, he hasn't settled at all. "Never look back, I will never change up," he chants repeatedly on the first song--a vow to never let a groove become a rut, to stay the same without repeating yourself.
Danny Brown took his grotesquerie to its highest level yet with Atrocity Exhibition. Concurrent with his divergent pursuits and evolving public image -- he's now done a sitcom theme, dipped into acting, hosted a talk show, and has spoken about living less recklessly -- the rapper dials back a bit with his follow-up and second Warp LP, executive produced by Q-Tip. Paul White is still one of Brown's preferred co-pilots, producing or co-producing four of the cuts.
The first words we got to hear from Danny Brown's first project since 2016 were "the hybrid". That ad-lib, delivered with Brown's now trademark strangulated yelp, kicked off advance single, 'Dirty Laundry'. Those words refer, of course, to Brown's 2010 debut LP of that name and the concept that he came up with to account for the stylistic leap he made from his mixtapes: namely, that he had become a new being, not a human nor alien, but a, well, hybrid.
The restless invention and wild energy remains, but his focused, compact fifth record finds the Detroit rapper on clear-eyed and contemplative form Danny Brown‘s appeal has always lain in his chaos: frenzied, frenetic rhymes over fast-paced beats coupled with a penchant for the absurd. Throughout his discography, though, the Detroit native has matured as an artist and his latest album, 'uknowhatimsayin¿', is a more focused, sombre project that sidesteps what audiences should expect from one of rap's most unique figures. Where Danny Brown's previous was designed to appeal to a specific, loyal fanbase, 'uknowhatimsayin¿' is much more palatable.
Joke's on us, and Danny's the one laughing. Danny Brown raps like he's from the future and burns through formulae like packets of cigs, so it's only natural that at some point he would deliver his most shocking change of style yet: a laidback 90s jazz rap vibe that brings out the hip-hop classicist in his hyper-modern style. From my perspective it's the smart move. It was getting hard not to feel that lyrics and production had become mismatched; Old's poppier concerns played host to some of Danny's darkest lyrics in a way that was sometimes brilliant and often confusing, whereas Atrocity Exhibition's aural insanity came at the price of the rapper falling back on simplistic and uninventive rhymes.
Although the appeal of Danny Brown has always been in his chaotic production and delivery, he delivers a more focused, melancholic project on his fifth studio album 'uknowhatimsayin'. With production overseen by A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip, the album features the beat maker's signature psychedelic soul that provides the perfect canvas for the Detroit MC. Brown flourishes in this soundscape, reigning in his more indulgent wildness to deliver a far more grounded project.
D anny Brown's teeth once looked like a cursed mountain range, his hair getting up from his scalp as if it had somewhere to suddenly be. Both are now smartened up for his first new music in three years, to the point where you might buy a car or sofa from him, but the tracks themselves thankfully still give off a malodorous stank. The Detroit rapper has cultivated, in terms of pure sonics, one of the greatest ever voices in hip-hop: his larynx seems to have its own personality disorder, one minute a gruff sage, the next a raunchy yowling tomcat.
The Lowdown: Danny Brown is a breath of fresh air. In a time where the average age of rappers seems to be trending towards driving age, Brown breaks the mold, not having released his breakthrough album until 30. Rather than unleash an endless list of streamable singles, the Detroit rapper, now almost 40, gives us time to ruminate on his albums, leaving about three years between each.