Danny Brown is endearingly cute. His hair, his missing front tooth, his trademark giggle-cum-hiccup (best experienced in his interview with A$AP Rocky for Noisey’s YouTube channel) all add to his aura of uncomplicated fun and charm. Peculiar then, that Brown is actually 31 years old. Practically a veteran in a scene currently dominated by Tylers (21), A$APs (23) and Purrps(21). He seems ageless, much like a Detroit rap version of Dorian Gray. The video for his latest release on Scion A/V, ‘Grown Up’, sees a child actor (adorably) playing a young Brown while he raps “Whoever thought I’d be the greatest, grownup”. He’s been growing for sometime in Detroit, where an initial track with former crew Rese’vor Dogs, ‘Yes’, received radio rotation in 2003 leading to some studio time with Roc-A-Fella in New York. When this didn’t pan out a 2010 collaboration with G-Unit rapper Tony Yayo had speculation rife of a signing to G-Unit Records. Failing to come to fruition because of 50 Cent’s objection to Brown’s penchant for black skinny jeans (yes, really) eventually he was signed to the more aesthetically pleasing Fool’s Gold Records.
Rising to prominence last year with the release of his free mixtape, XXX, Brown landed on all sorts of important-internet-music-blog-lists, receiving an 8.2 from Pitchforkand best hip-hop album of the year by Spin. Rather than a tired, hip-hop cliché reference to pornography the title actually refers to the Roman numerals for 30, a nod to Brown’s birthday. The album is notable for it’s originality not only in his ability to mix a childish pride (“Words that rhyme together just appear all in my head”, on ‘XXX’) with exhausted experience of depravity (“Experimented so much it’s a miracle I’m livin’’, on ‘Die Like a Rockstar’) but in his distinctive tone of voice: a high yelp that contrasts dramatically with the currently favoured, excessively bassy effect of some rap vocals (A$AP Rocky’s ‘Goldie’, for example).
Thus Danny Brown’s first UK appearance this year was held in high anticipation. Invited over by the Livin’ Proof DJ collective (who also hosted A$AP’s first UK appearance earlier this year) to perform at XOYO, Brown essentially became a very special guest in the middle of what emerged as a packed-out, inanely fun hip-hop club night. On their website Livin’ Proof describe themselves as DJ’s who ‘put on parties’, and they do. Spectacularly well in fact. Resident DJ’s Rags, Khalil, Budgie, and Snips played before and after Brown, building the crowd into a frenzy in the hour preceding his performance with constant rewinds of everyone’s favourite (easily recognized when drunk) beats (see: ‘Ni**as in Paris’, ‘Yonkers’, Dead Prez’s‘Hip-Hop’). When Brown appeared on stage, clutching a bottle of whiskey, all, erm… hell broke loose. Definitely inebriated (aside from whiskey he is also famously partial to adderall and MDMA) but defiantly entertaining, Brown launched into an impressively energetic and adept rendition of work from XXX before pausing during a song to announce giggling, “I took some drugs”. If he hadn’t subversively charmed everyone enough, he then told the room, as if to explain: “You can’t come to a Danny Brown show and not get fucked up…”, before promptly falling over on stage.
It was perfect. Wholly uncontrived, Brown managed to captivate a room full of people shouting every word back at him whilst seemingly staying inside his own little world. At one point pulling a girl onstage to dance with him, it was clear that as frenzied as the atmosphere was there was also an underlying sense of community present. Brown’s performance was far from ‘professional’, but it didn’t need to be; he was his hilarious, wasted, irreverent self and the audience loved him for it. When the opening beat of ‘Blueberry (Pills & Cocaine)’, the result of a collaboration between Brown and UK grime producer Darq E Freaker, dropped, the crowd descended into a we-came-to-hear-this-on-a-proper-soundsystem tumult. It was teasingly rewound no less than 6 times, the highlight of a consistently excellent night.
By Phoebe Rilot