Danny Brown's 'Old' Is Essential Hip-Hop

Courtesy of Danny Brown

For a rapper, Danny Brown looks funny. He’s got that swoopy hair, the (cute) gap-tooth smile, and a fierce old-lady sweater collection. It’s the kind of thing that makes him endearing to atypical rap fans (or atypical rappers, like the equally adorable Kitty), but can get the side-eye from other quarters.

Luckily Brown’s complete level of DGAF-ness, combined with a ballsy, hard-edged, yap-rap flow, wins people over by sheer force of, “Who the F is this dude?” It’s what’s gained him a rabid following across a dizzying run of EPs, mixtapes and free albums, leading up to a kind of bizarre but very internetty moment.


Brown’s new album Old, is scheduled for release next Tuesday, October 8, and is technically his “proper” studio debut. (That means it’s a full-length studio album on a label, Fool’s Gold, that, in some forms, actually costs money.) Of course, it’s not at all his debut full length, and it’s streaming for free, legally, now on Spotify anyways.

So yeah, you should be listening to Old right now if you wanna hear one of the freshest voices in hip-hop right now. Uh, he isn’t even that old. At age 32, he's still four years younger than 2 Chainz!


But enough about all of that. Here are five essential things to note about the album:

1. Despite the fact that this is Brown's “debut” album, he’s already had a sort of narrative arc that requires he go back to his stylistic roots.


The album’s opening track, “Side A,” makes Brown’s new position pretty clear. “They want the old Danny Brown,” goes the aggressively spit chorus, and he’s back. For at least the first half of the album this is Brown crawling out of shooting galleries and decrepit apartments, so hungry he’s starving and barking.

2. Aggressively “weird” Danny Brown has receded a bit to the background.

If you were hoping for a lot of that one voice he does where he’s kind of warbling and screeching, you’ll be disappointed. But he doesn’t need that here. Brown’s flow slips through his middle and lower registers instead, appropriate for someone loose-lipping about gunshot smoke and sex.


3. The return of the “old” Danny Brown means it’s not just all party raps.

Yes, Danny loves the ladies, and he’s infamous for it. (So if you’re offended by story-within-the-song commands to “open wide,” he isn’t the rapper for you). But Old starts out much bleaker, with images of his native Detroit that, frankly, probably amount for many affluent listeners to aural poverty porn. But it almost seems to function as Brown reasserting his origins and keeping any implied hipsterism far, far away.


4. Despite that, this is far from an orthodox hip-hop album, especially when you consider the guests.

A rapper worried about so-called “hip-hop cred” would not let someone like red-headed, freckled Florida native Kitty anywhere near his album. The same goes for Purity Ring, the slightly dark electronic duo from Canada. Yet it’s to Brown’s creative credit that he invites them alongside other, more establishment guests like Schoolboy Q and A$AP Rocky. It all knits together in a way that makes perfect sense – what true music fan even listens to just one genre (or subgenre) or music any more?


5. Danny Brown can straddle the critical and commercial divide.

Could he ever go pop? Hopefully never, but there’s enough here that goes hard and almost hook-y at the same time, like internet-ancient lead single “Kush Coma,” featuring A$AP Rocky. Is it a club banger? Nope, not really, but this, along with handful of other possible tracks, could score radio airplay in more enlightened markets.


Listen to Danny Brown's Old on Spotify here.

Arielle Castillo is Fusion's culture editor, reporting on arts, music, culture, and subcultures from the streets on up. She's also a connoisseur of weird Florida, weightlifting, and cats.

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