There are seemingly two sides to this persona of Danny Brown, the more subtle and complex figure presented on tracks like Tell Me What I Don’t Know and From The Ground, where his flow is significantly different and his production far more restrained. Lyrics seem to be a main focus here, his more serious stories told in this subtle fashion. These tracks feel like they belong more on Mick Jenkins’ latest album than on Danny Brown’s but these songs manage to blend really well into the tone of the project. These songs are almost a come down for the listener, a break from the insanity that came before and that will come after.
Brown’s other side is a cocaine fueled, alcoholic, delusional beast quickly losing any scrap of sanity as he falls deeper and deeper into the hells of his own mind. The drugs are constant, he talks blatantly about cocaine, the lines and lines of coke an essential part of his existence. His flow sounds like his vocal cords have been shredded and his larynx crushed, all that’s left is this screeching manic wail. He’s an immensely talented rapper, his rhyming and word flow is simply incredible. But the sound of his voice is what boosts every song on this album, he truly sounds like someone falling completely apart. He sounds far more fractured than he did on XXX or Old and his lyricism is bleaker.
This is not a depressing album, it’s too nightmarish for that. This is the sound of hell, a place of unapologetic nihilism. This isn’t a project to listen to late at night as the music will linger in your mind even as you sleep. But the album is far from off putting, far from it. The beats are some of the best of the year, far from conventional and very odd for typical rap music. These are not beats you’d hear in any album by any other rap artist, the beats are typically completely intoxicating, paranoia inducing and aggressive. The genius of Brown is that he makes these beats fit him perfectly, he synchronizes his flow with the style of the beats perfectly, a feat I honestly can’t imagine anyone else pulling off.
Every song on this album is flawless, Pneumonia is almost psychedelic, Dance in the Water is ruthlessly deranged and Really Doe is an immaculate collaboration anthem, with Ab Soul, Kendrick Lamar and especially Earl Sweatshirt giving incredible verses. Every song is distinctive much like Danny himself, there’s no song that even sounds like each other. But it all fits, every song despite severe tonal differences could only be on this album. The album almost tells a story of a man losing his mind due to copious amounts of drug abuse, small lapses of sanity before completely losing himself in the nightmare of his own mind. There is nothing left any more but the distant memory of a man that once was and a raving lunatic in his place.
This is not for everyone, not even for all Danny Brown fans. This album is bold in that it seems to be trying its hardest to devolve further and further from mainstream rap. Danny Brown doesn’t care about the fans who loved Old and want more songs like that. He doesn’t care about the casual listener who wants a mindless party song. He cares about making the weirdest, scariest and absolutely incredible music possible. I hope this persona of his sticks around for a long time because rap needs more guys like Danny Brown. No one can truly be like him but for as long as he’s here making borderline experimental music like this, no one will have to be. Atrocity Exhibition is a modern classic and I’d highly recommend giving it a chance.
Author: Logan Kenny
Follow on Twitter: @LoganKenny1