Danny Brown - Atrocity Exhibition (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Danny Brown

Atrocity Exhibition (2016)

Warp


Danny Brown is a weird dude in all the best ways. There are few rappers who come across as unhinged as he does at his most reserved. Atrocity Exhibition, his newest full length, finds him comfortable: fast as hell and all over the sonic spectrum.

It’s hard to talk about Danny Brown without mentioning his past. He's sold drugs but done more. He's spent time in prison and almost signed to 50 Cent’s G-Unit Records. (Apparently, his pants were too tight.) XXX, his breakthrough album, helped define his unique, experienced identity. Over the course of XXX and follow up Old, Brown's sense of humor also shined through. However, this new album is dark. His high-pitched rasp confronts and embraces a range of antagonistically distinct beats, from heavy electronica to sped-up post punk. (The album’s title comes from the first song on Joy Divison’s Closer.) 

Danny Brown parties. His drug use and sexual escapades are discussed in graphic detail. But there’s more to the story. The details are in the hangovers, or the self-reflection on self-medication rarely heard in hip-hop. “Ain’t It Funny” manipulates Nick Mason’s “Wervin'” into a horrifying depiction of drug effects. “Can’t quit the drug use, or the alcohol abuse, even if I wanted to, tell you what I’m gonna do, I’ma wash away my problems, with this bottle of Henny, anxiety got the best of me, so popping them Xannies,” he spits at lightening speed with the pulse doing nothing to slow him down. “But Satan’s the one laughing,” closes the door on one psychological journey on an album full of them.

Solitude is a place where Danny Brown finds comfort. With one notable exception: “Really Doe,” the lyricists’ posse cut. Brown is on his A-game, aware of his competition. Kendrick Lamar shows up, as does fellow Black Hippy member Ab-Soul. But 22-year-old Earl Sweatshirt steals the show. Other than them, the fifteen-track album boasts a mere three features and doesn’t suffer for it. Brown is lively and extremely confident in his vision. He and frequent producer Paul White have an ear for diverse, aggressive, angry music, such as the Nine Inch Nails homage “Downward Spiral.” The whole ordeal is menacing and takes place in a headspace most would elude at all costs.

Atrocity Exhibition exists as a tribute and a forewarning to the dark corners of underground where Danny Brown came up. While most avoid their demons, he plays around in bed with them. He’s a phenomenal outcast and unbelievably proud of it. On “When It Rain,” Brown shouts, “You ain’t heard it like this before,” like a madman. Atrocity Exhibition proves him right.