In many ways, Danny Brown’s introduction to Atrocity Exhibition plays out eerily similarly to the old ESPN show, “Who’s #1”. Much like the program’s free jazz presentation and beat poet narration, Danny keeps a similar theme in “Downward Spiral”’s maniacal descent into his tweaked-out subconscious. It isn’t pretty. Rather, conventions are pushed, boundaries are condensed, and above all, the Detroit native is still the drug-addled mastermind testament to the influences surrounding him. Being a recent addition to Warp Records, the grimey, Detroit emcee certifiably pairs as a match made in heaven.
Even though Atrocity Exhibition’s title may suggest something of a post-punk influence in the body, take it more as a summarization of some of the theme’s presented by one Ian Curtis many years ago. Danny’s latest output is blatantly dark, as would any Joy Division cut be, as would The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails, as would any mental breakdown caught on record, and so on.
In Danny Brown’s own words, “Ain’t it funny how it happens?”. Nothing on this record fell into place by mistake. We’re dealing with a mastermind behind hip-hop’s breaching of new ground in 2016. To its credit, this formulates praise, either as a godfather of future endeavors, or as a classic present day in its own right; only time will tell.
Given the blatant experimental nature of Atrocity Exhibition, Danny is a master at his craft in any regard.
This is different. From the whistles of “Tell Me What I Don’t Know”, to the struggling horns and muddied frenzy of “Ain’t It Funny”, to the radio banger, “Really Doe”, Atrocity Exhibition turns feeble minds every which way, yet it all plays into Danny Brown’s hand completely.
Former projects were very frank with Danny’s dabbling in drugs and sex escapades (sex-capades?), but also with the comedown of his self-destructive tendencies. As such, XXX and Old were easy reads in terms of the timeline being presented to an audience. Side A consisted of wild and out party anthems, whereas Side B tracks swayed more towards the repercussions of actions and the subsequent depression that sets in.
Danny spits over and over again on “Downward Spiral” how he’s “gotta figure it out”. It is a reference in essence to “XXX” and “Blunt After Blunt” all in one package, but Danny Brown doesn’t have to metaphorically split a record into two competing Jekyll and Hyde personalities anymore these days. Drug abuse is a bitch, as is depression, and what Danny Brown has successfully done on Atrocity Exhibition is harness his negative energy and mental health into dark entries into his own personal journey. To cope is to personify the darkest of insecurities. The imagery on the album art is a glimpse of a matured Danny Brown, yet the glitchy nature of a faint appearance of a skeleton reflects the crumbling of his mental state.
Separating men from boys, Danny Brown has made all of the right decisions leading up to this newest release.
He is a student of the game, and that is increasingly obvious as the days go by, even stretching beyond the confines of hip-hop. Longtime collaborators Paul White (Open Mike Eagle’s Hella Personal Film Festival) and Black Milk among others once again lend their incredible talent for mixing and crafting innovative beats. Even better, Danny is still spitfire on even the most unorthodox samples and tempos, a continuing strength that sets him apart from so many other rappers. So yeah, on paper, he knows his stuff.
We see that in his undying love for Arthur Lee, his hipster tendency to sample brilliant works of canon indie-rock, and his professing appeal for gratification from the most audible of music critic voices. Atrocity Exhibition in itself is a wondrous playground of subconscious soundbites springing forth on record. Each display of tactical word craftsmanship in typical outlandish execution and self-deprecating humor is a channel into Brown’s uncharacteristic upbringing. Vast arrays of film and television references creep their way into his lyrics left and right, just as musical heroes of yesteryear always have. “White Lines” arguably represents the metaphorical checklist that is a Danny Brown track; he is a dope fiend, he knows it in melancholy self-awareness, yet his desire to be with the woman he’s with on the song is tailored by his altered state. Such is the life for young Danny Brown, now growing older.
Atrocity Exhibition struts itself like a classic.
It’s dramatic and playing out at a hundred miles an hour, yet the tracks don’t seem scattered in an unfinished manner. Rather, Danny Brown personifies emotions ever-increasingly clear. To an alarming extent, fans probably have every reason to be worried for his personal psyche. Every clue builds on the legend of “Stanny Crown”, to critics and peers alike singing their praises. At this moment in time, Atrocity Exhibition may not write itself in the history books as the classic he craves, but Danny has laid out the blueprints for expanding beyond your favorite whack rappers.