Exclaim!'s Best of 2013: Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums

6. Danny Brown
(Fool's Gold)

With his retail debut Old, Detroit rapper Danny Brown went hood to hipster without losing sight of the streets that raised him. Danny broke through to a new audience in the past year, with verses celebrating a pill-fuelled bacchanal in a Looney Tunes yawp. Yet Old also addresses fans asking for the old Danny Brown, the rapper who delivered thoughtful and hilariously honest chronicles of Detroit hood life. So, Danny split his album into Side A and B to address both audiences.

The underground rap-infused Side A retells Danny's difficult come-up, while Side B sees him partying over dubstep, grime and electro-inflected breaks — or at least that's the veneer. Initial impressions of careless hedonism peel off with closer listening, revealing a man desperate to drown the trauma of his Detroit upbringing. The pills, weed and girls are distractions, but provide no real escape.

Fitting for someone who took 32 years to drop his first official album, Danny turned Old into his own star vehicle. The album glances forward and backward to create an imaginative biopic of Danny's past and future. Unburdened by commercial concession, he cast the few guest spots perfectly: Freddie Gibbs as impeccable gangster; A$AP Rocky as boundless libertine; Schoolboy Q as gremlin horndog; Charlie XCX as stoner siren. Danny doesn't glorify drug dealing anymore. Where XXX concluded with Danny's imagined death by overdose, album closer "Float On" finds Danny right back where he started: sniffing Adderall, trying to spark ideas with the pen. (Aaron Matthews)