If you’re a hip-hop fan and you don’t know who Danny Brown is, there’s a good chance you’ve been living under a rock since 2011. The Detroit emcee is known as quite the character, bringing an insurmountable level of energy to every song he touches. After jumping to Warp Records, Danny has finally released his follow up to 2013’s Old. Atrocity Exhibition.
And yes, that is a Joy Division reference.
On this record, Danny Brown is a rock-star in every sense of the term. He’s a boisterous character with no fear of expressing his affinity for drugs and alcohol; however, the beauty in Atrocity Exhibition is his ability to explore the consequences of the lifestyle he lives. Danny may be one of the few rappers who will boast about his drug use on one track, and then turn around and smack you with the honest truth about the problems this causes him on the next. Lyrically, he is completely on point. Atrocity Exhibition still has the same zany personality that made XXX and Old unique, but it’s also a highly introspective release. His lyrics are upfront and truthful, depicting a lifestyle that many couldn’t begin to imagine.
Everybody say, you got a lot to be proud of,
Been high this whole time, don’t realize what I done,
Cause when I’m all alone, feel like no one care,
Isolate myself and don’t go nowhere,
Smoking blunt after blunt, ’til my eyes start burning,
Hennessy straight got my chest like a furnace,
Drowning frustrations in a ocean of sin,
Thinking irrational, I have no emotions.
What stands out most about Danny Brown’s vocal performance on this record though is his flow. The man can rap on anything, plain and simple. For example, both the opening track “Downward Spiral”, and the song “White Lines” both have instrumentals that sound as if they should be impossible to ride… Yet, Danny finds a way to make it sound as easy as breathing. It’s really something to behold, and his ability to do this is on display here more than any previous album.
Which brings us to the instrumentation itself.
The production on Atrocity Exhibition is a really a unique experience. Provided by the likes of Paul White, The Alchemist, and a few others, the instrumentation on the album is unlike any other. There are elements to the production which feel distinctly Detroit, yet the overall sound is so off-the-wall that it’s hard to Atrocity Exhibition to any single influence. There are tracks like “Downward Spiral” that feel so heavily influenced by Joy Division (as the title would lead one to believe), and then more conventional instrumental like “Pneumonia”.
In the broader sense, everything works well together even with the vast stylistic variation. It feels hectic in a good way, and that’s exactly what’s to be expected from Danny Brown.
Atrocity Exhibition is special. It’s special first and foremost because it’s a great album, but there’s also something wonderful about seeing Danny Brown realize his potential. His previous releases have all been good in their own respect, but Atrocity Exhibition feels like so much more. It’s the type of album that pushes boundaries without being recklessly abrasive. Its execution is brilliant in the sense that it’s experimental, yet familiar enough to appeal to a larger base.
So my task,
Is inspire your future with my past,
I lived through that shit,
So you don’t have to go through it,
Stepping stones in my life,
Walk with me.
(Hell for It)
Atrocity Exhibition may feel like a fever dream, but it is one that you will never want to wake up from. As a hip-hop fan, this record is a can’t miss album. Danny Brown has released one of the most engaging, unique, and gritty records of 2016. It’s certainly worth your time, and potentially album of the year material.