Nothing has tested my love of rap like the XXL Freshman Issue cover. Every year it’s the same parade of branding-obsessed douchebags trying to get some press for their permanently-pushed-back debut that’s going to get dropped like a lump of coal sometime in the end of December, a.k.a. record label tax loss season. Detroit MC Danny Brown put out XXX as a free download in 2011 via Fools Gold. He appeared on the XXL cover in 2012 alongside a bunch of worthless sacks of shit, and if it wasn’t for cuts like Scrap Metal, I would never have found my favourite new-ish rapper.
It takes a bad motherfucker to be funny about something as grim as stripping scrap metal out of a foreclosed-on house, but Danny Brown wrings a few wry laughs out of the darkest of material without undercutting the pathos: “you might be laughing because you know that shit is true / rusty flatbed truck the colour of doo doo,” he drawls like he’s talking about a custom low-rider.
By the time A$AP Rocky’s record dropped this past January, the Danny Brown press offensive was in full swing, but even the blog hype cycle hadn’t taken the novelty out of hearing him tear up a posse cut with Biggie-like perversion, only weirder. His verse starts around 3:18:. “Michael Jackson penny loafers / moonwalkin on the sun / barefoot with shades on,” and then, in case you thought he was going all PM Dawn on you, “bitch pussy smell like a penguin.” I mean, what more needs to be said? Makes Kendrick Lamar look like a drama-class try-hard.
After XXX we mostly had to whet our appetites for his next disc, Old, with guest verses, but they rarely disappointed. Listen how he turns out SKYWLKR’s flip of Britney Spears’ Toxic on Childish Gambino’s Royalty mixtape: “Got em drip drip drippin like that lemon and Coronas / Bank roll thick like the neck on Sabonis” – seriously, no disrespect, but how many of Childish Gambino’s fifteen year old teenybopper fans remember Portland Trailblazers passing machine Arvydas Sabonis? I sort of follow the NBA and I sure as hell had to look the shit up. Then Mr. Brown goes ahead and plays off near-rhymes for another three or four words like the english language is there for him to bend to his will?
So Old is due September 30, the iTunes pre-order and album trailer are here, and if you have any doubt in your mind about whether you need it in your life, start with Side A (Old) which is just downright punishing: “wearing jackets in the house, it’s a Michigan winter / boiling water on the stove, ramen noodles for dinner.” Then proceed to Kush Coma, do not stop, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, because if you slow down, this is going to beat your head up like a crash test dummy. This kush coma isn’t a mellow high; dead that Bob Marley shit right quick, because Danny Brown is not playing. Did I mention that ODB is also intensely mind-melting? Stop me before I line up outside the record store a week early.