Danny Brown Delivers Eccentric Gem with ‘Atrocity Exhibition’
Danny Brown delivers another eccentric, brilliant LP.
Danny Brown is one of a kind. There’s no other way to describe the Midwest, alternative rapper, who possesses a distinct set of pipes and jagged, raw style. Brown isn’t a rapper that will likely ever appeal to everyone, but he’s highly respectable given his unique approach. Atrocity Exhibition showcases Brown’s eccentricity in all its glory.
“Downward Spiral” initiates Atrocity Exhibition, finding Brown discussing his demons, most notably substance abuse. “Downward Spiral” is realistic thanks to his distinct, whiny voice and raw, highly percussive production. Expectedly, Brown is profane, not holding back in the least.
His voice sounds ‘normal’ (lower, less manic) on “Tell Me What I Don’t Know,” which makes the record surprising. It’s a bigger testament to who he is as a musician – incredibly versatile.
“Rolling Stone” is arguably more intriguing, enlisting Petite Noir on the hook. Brown returns to his idiosyncratic side – a perfect match for the soulful production work. Clearly, he’s on autopilot, with Petite Noir balancing his ‘in your face’ energy with a kinder, gentler approach.
“You know I’m living like a rolling stone / but don’t feel for me / you know I’m in my zone / so don’t speak to me / and in my mind, I just feel so alone…”
“Really Doe” gives the rapper an indisputable banger. Furthermore, the five-minute-plus juggernaut features a star-studded cast – Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, and Earl Sweatshirt. With spot-on rhymes by each, the malicious production, which samples “Fragments of Crystal,” adds the cherry on top. The hook – performed by Kendrick Lamar – is fire:
“Yeah, they say I got the city on fire / I ain’t boomin’, that’s a goddamn lie, whoa / really doe, like really doe / really doe, like really doe.”
If “Really Doe” gives Brown a commercial hit that should please alternative and underground enthusiasts too, “Lost” returns to the base. “Lost” references Stanley Kubrick in his opening line… how many rappers do that? The topics encompassed throughout “Lost?” Sex and drugs.
“Ain’t It Funny”
“Ain’t It Funny” follows intriguingly, once more anchored by a brilliant sample. Like “Downward Spiral,” he references his drug abuse, dropping big names such as Adderall, Fentanyl, not to mention a quote about his “nose running right now.”
“Golddust” is high-energy and confounding to follow. The tempo is quick, with Brown’s rhymes continuing in disjointed, sometimes indecipherable babble. Examine the lyrics and thematically it is the same: drugs, drugs, and more drugs. “White Lines” ranks among the best productions of Atrocity Exhibition. Like the majority, Brown talks coke, and NOT Coca-Cola:
“Lines and lines of coke / heart beating hope it ain’t my time to go / take another snort / no way no no…”
“Pneumonia” gives Brown another hit, in the commercial scheme of things. The hook is ready-made for rap radio, even if it lacks crossover appeal beyond an urban audience.
“Made 30 bands in 30 minutes / before I count it, I done damn near spent it / put a brick on ya in some Rick Owens / Flow sick, n*gga, call it pneumonia.”
It may not bang as hard as “Really Doe,” but it successfully balances the underground and the radio. “Dance in the Water” follows exceptionally, kicking up the tempo and delivering another infectious hook.
“When It Rain”
Brown returns to a less whiny, lower-pitched vocal on “From the Ground.” Kelela offers the assist on the hook. It’s a respectable track, but the more energetic “When It Rain” is a home run. “When It Rain” is a mix between hardcore, unapologetic rap, and the dancefloor. Ambitious, he doesn’t let up on this standout:
“Time for the percolator / murder music orchestrator / point blank hollow tip circulator / your ass luck if you on respirator.”
Beyond “When It Rain,” the remainder of Atrocity Exhibition never supersedes its glory. That said, there’s still plenty to love. “Today” is as ambitious as everything else, yet the simple titular hook appeals to all. Penultimate, chilled-out “Get Hi” (featuring B-Real) references Tommy Dorsey, Dizzy Gillespie, and John Coltrane in a rap song. The Dorsey and Gillespie references are sexual:
“No homo but yo b*tch go / Tommy Dorsey on my trombone / Hit the greenery jaws go, Gillespie / have a n*gga shaking like he got epilepsy.”
Closer “Hell for It” lives up to its hellish title:
“And I’m a give ‘em hell for it / until it’s heaven on earth…”
All in all, Atrocity Exhibition is one of the most interesting albums of 2016. As a rapper, Brown is in his own world and league. Atrocity has few moments that’ll appeal to the mainstream but is a blessing to the open-minded listener. One thing’s for sure – he’s one of a kind.
Gems: “Downward Spiral,” “Rolling Stone,” “Really Doe,” “Ain’t It Funny,” “Pneumonia” & “When It Rain”
Danny Brown • Atrocity Exhibition • Warp • Release: 9.30.16
Photo Credit: Warp