Personality will get you a long way in hip-hop and make no mistake, Danny Brown has one. In fact, on Old, his third studio record, the quick-witted rapper has so much personality that he felt the need to split his record into two parts, catering to both the traditional and the arena-ready poles of the hip-hop world.
Brought together by an all-star cast of producers such as Purity Ring (’25 Bucks’) and Rustie (‘Dope Song’), what should feel like a laborious exercise is instead rather successful in its streamlined delivery. Only one track ventures past the four-minute mark while many clock in at just over two. It’s testament to Brown’s ability as a songwriter then that his bars never feel half-baked; his flows and cadences are intentionally hyperactive but for those undeterred, pulling back the goofy persona reveals a real artist at work.
The hook on ‘Wonderbread’ finds Danny playing on the titular word, painting a picture of his childhood self aspiring for more in life than food stamps (“On my way to get Wonderbread, I swear I just want the bread”). For Brown, his personality isn’t merely a pose – witty puns like this work precisely because of the rapper’s inflexion, uninhibited and cartoon-like. It’s a deliberate counterpoint to the record’s inner turmoil, for a minute and a half later the humour is brought back to reality by the image of street-thugs kicking in his head.
As on previous releases, Brown’s latest isn’t without its schoolboy humour, but it’s Old’s sobering tension between dick-sucking jokes and downright destitution that will finally catapult the rapper out of hip-hop’s alternative fringe.