Brown kept saying, “This ain’t a rap show. It’s a party with all my friends.” This ain’t a rap show? It had all the makings of one: talented rapper, speaker-rattling beats, DJ, plenty of sweating and dancing, beer bottles, and pot smoke, too. But to Brown, it wasn’t a rap show. “I’m just here to turn up.”
So turn up we did. Sixty straight minutes of 2013-era Danny Brown, complete with the immensely talented, technically gifted rapper spitting off rhymes about MDMA, designer clothing and cunnilingus.
Brown’s Old and Reckless Tour is in preparation for the release of his new album, Old, and he’s admittedly letting go of some of the grit and comedy that carried his near-perfect 2011 Fool’s Gold-released XXX, telling Pitchfork in January, “You can’t just keep dwelling on how fucked up shit is because that ain’t going to do nothing but make you feel depressed, so you gotta just say ‘fuck it’ and take drugs and party.” So that’s definitely how we ended up with Saturday’s turn-up, non-show, rap-show party thing.
It sounds a bit like he’s setting aside the immensely great and weird “30”-type shit that found him yelling about decadelong stresses over a bunch of blaring tubas in favor of frenetic, drug-fueled party jams. He’s certainly earned himself a bit of party time, and it seems like he’s living in that space as much as he can. His new material finds him almost exclusively in his shouty, yap-rap voice, covering topics like taking copious amounts of drugs and relentless womanizing, bouncing over trap-cum-electro production: big snares, bigger synth riffs, all uptempo all the time.
This is OK, and it makes for a hell of a show, which is really all I’m tasked with covering here anyway. It was hectic and fun and so goddamn hot down in the Pearl Street clubroom, and that’s really all you can ask out of a performer in that situation. You want a party? Brown delivers. You want a deep cut? “Go buy my album and put on your headphones,” Brown snarled at a fan three-quarters of the way through the show. He cracked a smile and laughed afterwards, but there was sincerity behind it.
There’s a fear, from a critical standpoint, that Brown might wade too far into the molly-molly-molly all the time world his recent output has hinted at, but that’s yet to be seen. He’s saying there are more than 20 tracks on Old, leaving him plenty of room to fill the non-show, non-single songs with the more challenging or abrasive stuff that garnered XXX all its praise. But the shining beacon of Brown’s current state is very much “Kush Coma,” the Skywlkr-produced track played Saturday that finds Brown hitting all of his touchstones and crutches, combining his strengths and vices into one—great writing and storytelling, insane production, drug-fueled release. It’s a wonderfully versatile track: one crazy enough to play at one of his shows and light the crowd on fire; one complex and mesmerizing enough for repeated plays through your headphones. It’s hedonism with romantic introspection—Brown’s sweet spot and genius—done this well by few others, if any.