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Danny Brown: The Face of Rap to Come

In Music
BROWN OUT: Detroit emcee Danny Brown is pushing hip-hop forward with his postmodern vision. He plays The Catalyst on Oct. 12.

BROWN OUT: Detroit emcee Danny Brown is pushing hip-hop forward with his postmodern vision. He plays The Catalyst on Oct. 12.

With a voice like absolutely no other and a sense of rhythm that often stretches the very definition of the term, Danny Brown is one of the strangest and most electrifying figures to have emerged from hip-hop’s underground.

The Detroit rapper was already 30 by the time he dropped 2011’s career-defining album XXX—an odyssey of desperate, trap-house introspection. On XXX, Brown plumbed the depths of addiction, shone a light on Detroit’s decay and found hope in family and fatherhood. Sometimes he covered multiple topics at once, like when he rapped about stripping copper wire from abandoned houses with his crack-smoking uncle. Within the first two tracks he compared himself to everyone from the late Brittany Murphy to Squidward.

After a (somewhat) restrained follow-up, 2013’s Old, anticipation has been steadily growing for Brown’s follow-up. The results are, unsurprisingly, fascinating. Atrocity Exhibition, Brown’s fourth record, is in many ways a call back to the mania of XXX. Opening track “Downward Spiral” sets this tone early, referencing XXX’s title track over a rumbling beat and a chorus hook that sounds more like Fugazi than Wu-Tang. Both “Ain’t it Funny” and “Golddust” are similarly steeped in experimental rock music tropes, sounding a bit like the spiritual successors to Kanye’s “Black Skinhead” with their fuzzed-out guitars and synths. Almost every track includes disorienting industrial clanks and clashes as part of the beat. Drake, this is not.

But what Brown has made apparent again and again is that he is doing things his own way. From his style, to his rhythm, to his melodic palate, Danny is out there exploring new spaces. “Dance in the Water,” a personal favorite (and “the closest track in the album to a definitive banger,” according to Rap Genius) takes a frenzied Afrobeat sample and turns it into a sort of metaphysical dance anthem based on the chorus command to “dance in the water and not get wet.” And by the time the manic first single, “When It Rain,” comes toward the album’s end, it feels almost tame compared to much of what precedes it.

Brown’s appearance at the Catalyst this Wednesday is an opportunity to see one of the most exciting artists in hip-hop performing at the height of his powers. It falls in the middle of the week, but this is one of those times where it might be worth calling in sick the next day.

Danny Brown
Oct 12, 8pm, $22
The Catalyst, Santa Cruz

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