Danny Brown Old

Danny Brown Old
8
It's been a long, trippy journey for Danny Brown. The Detroit rapper rose to fame with 2011's XXX, transitioning from Dilla-sampling backpacker to Pitchfork circuit cameo king. Fourth record Old reverses the last album's narrative, chronicling the rapper's come up from hustling in Detroit (side one) to MDMA in Europe (side two). The first side returns Danny to his poor Detroit childhood over psychedelic, dusty beats. He remembers his mother's braiding hustle with Purity Ring ("25 Bucks") and laments how "school becomes a free meal/street becomes a cheap thrill" on "Gremlins." Unlike the largely solo XXX, Old pulls excellent verses from guests, including ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Freddie Gibbs. "Side A (Old)" is straight raw raps, acknowledging fans' desire for Danny to return to his Hybrid style. On "Torture," Danny muses about his childhood desensitization to violence and horror. Side two dives headfirst into bacchanalia, soundtracked by progressive beats that draw upon dubstep, grime and electronica; this side is also heavy on the hyperactive sex-and-drugs flow familiar to most of Danny's newer fans. After half an album of street reporting and dope dealing, the partying on "Smokin & Drinkin" and "Dip" feel hard-earned. Old is imaginatively sequenced, vividly written and loaded with inventive, banging beats. Occasionally the thematic sequencing makes some tracks feel redundant, particularly on side two, but the highlights more than compensate. Old is a post-fame album done right. Acutely aware of expectations and potential criticism, Danny doubled down on what makes him great instead of selling out. Here's to aging gracefully. (Fool's Gold)