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Album Review: Danny Brown “Old”

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It’s been two years since Danny Brown released his highly acclaimed mixtape, XXX. As the hype kept building and building, Danny left fans wondering if we would ever see an album from him anytime soon. Finally, he grants us our wish by releasing the 19-track long Old, the title, much like XXX, having a double meaning; a reference to the rapper’s age (32 at the time of this release) and his pre-XXX days.

Old gives us just what we expected from Danny Brown, but also what we didn’t expect. Divided into a “Side A” and “Side B,” Brown lets us into his bi-polar world; the first half is a bleak, gritty representation of drug dealing, hustling, and growing up in Detroit, while the second half is an all-out turn-up frenzy.

Upon hearing the song “Side A,” Danny’s newer fans will be taken aback by his deeper-voiced delivery over production that sounds reminiscent of 90’s Queensbridge rap. However, those who have followed Danny Brown since before XXX will know that this territory is all too familiar. Even Danny himself is conscious of it, rapping, “They want that old Danny Brown” and making references to “the old Danny Brown” throughout the first ten tracks.

On tracks like “The Return” and “Wonderbread,” Danny makes it clear to us that there is a dark past behind the druggie, “turnt up,” almost comedic persona we’re familiar with, vividly detailing his experiences as a drug dealer, whether it be crackheads fighting to the death or burning off their top lip on a stove trying to get a hit.

The production on the first half of Old, predominately by London producer Paul White and Detroit producer Oh No, is highly consistent and an excellent reflection of what the Detroit rap scene sounds like for those who are unfamiliar. The consistency continues with the “Side B” half of Old, as Brown recruits Bruiser Brigade in-house producer SKYWLKR and Scottish EDM producer Rustie for most of his electronic trap-inspired party anthems, even getting an assist from his boss at Fools Gold, DJ and producer A-Trak, on the raucous “Smokin’ and Drinkin’.”

As soon as you hear “Side B (Dope Song),” you immediately realize that this is the Danny Brown you’ve become familiar with recently; the shrill voice, the bars about consuming Molly, sniffing Adderall, and smoking blunt after blunt after blunt, and of course, the hard-hitting trap beats. Once the single “Dip” kicks in, you immediately get the impression that you’ve been at a party for hours, straight zoning. The only thing is, eventually you’ll decide that you’ve had enough and that maybe it’s time to leave, as Old‘s Side B eventually begins to get repetitive; you start wondering if maybe songs like “Break It (Go)” and “Handstand” (which is basically a re-work of one of Danny’s free Soundcloud tracks, “#ExpressYourself”) should have been B-sides.

Despite the second half “getting old” (no pun intended) after the first few tracks, Old should be at least counted as the top 10 best rap albums of 2013, as it has something to offer for both longtime Danny Brown fans and new ones.