Danny Brown : XXX

Jeff Terich

If there’s a moral to Danny Brown’s XXX, it’s this: Don’t do as Danny Brown does. The Detroit rapper specializes in debauchery – narcotic, sexual, you name it – though not in a trolling, provoke for provocation’s sake kind of Odd Future shock value. His heroic consumption of substances, be they illegal, legal or otherwise, is the central conceit of XXX, and Brown goes the extra mile in taking the listener through the peaks and valleys of what that entails. XXX, while aptly signifying high-test moonshine and pornographic content, is also the Roman numeral sequence for 30, which also happens to be Brown’s age, though after calling out “thirty!” at the beginning of the title track, he spends the first couple of tracks pondering his own mortality, and wondering how it is he’s even alive now. And in the ominous, even slightly terrifying “Die Like a Rockstar,” he sees himself going good and early along with the likes of Hendrix and Cobain.

But, see, it’s not long before Brown enters the manic high of the chemicals coursing through his arteries. His voice, nasal and high-pitched, almost cartoonish, is a pretty blatant affectation, but one that seems to match the bizarre scenarios he finds himself in throughout the mixtape. And knowing his identity – his unique sense of style, his claim that he was denied a record deal because he wore skinny jeans – the voice only lends an added shade to an already rich palette. He owns that goofy delivery, however, and it turns extra intense on more than one occasion, “Monopoly” standing out as a highlight of grossed-out high art, involving defecation on mixtapes and Frito-Lay scented anatomy. ‘Nuff said, except the production, which is positively dystopian in its deep, throbbing synth lines.

There’s always a comedown after the high, however, and here it arrives around track 13, in which Brown cites his family’s own problems with addiction: “because my pops like to get fucked up the same way.” Yet it sounds borderline triumphant to the downtempo tracks that follow, like “Nosebleeds,” which finds Brown is on the outside looking in at his girl’s addiction, and the similarly moody “Party All the Time,” only marginally connected to Eddie Murphy’s party jam. He strips vacant houses for scrap in “Scrap Or Die,” and lets out a seething, snarling vent of a confession on “30,” ending the mixtape with as much raw emotion and vulnerability that he’s allowed to roll off his tongue throughout the course of the entire set.

As lifestyles go, Danny Brown’s is definitely not one to follow. But the sheer self-destructive nature of his confessions, and his unrelentingly brutal honesty about it is what ultimately makes his own uniquely psychedelic take on hip-hop so compelling. Which isn’t to say it’s all amazing; when he falls back on the tired standby of blunts and blowjobs, he fails to standout from any other rapper heavily loaded with clichés. When Danny Brown sticks to his own demented and unmistakable world, however, he takes the listener on a hell of a ride.

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Download: Danny Brown – XXX

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