The opening track, “Downward Spiral,” embodies the tone for the album, setting the stage for the darkness that raps most unique presence is about to bring to light. Danny Brown is an enigmatic figure to say the least. Hip-hops most rewarding acquired taste. From his nasal voice, to his spastic flow and lightning fast delivery, it doesn't seem like an appetizing dish upon description, and even upon first listen you're unsure what you just experienced, but the more you delve into the fearless MC's psyche, the more natural his pandemonium becomes. He's nothing if not commendable in his extreme honesty, he doesn't care whether or not he's painted in a good light, he just wants to get his music out, and it's up to you whether or not you want to hop on board. 2011's XXX was when he really hit me, and he took it to another level with 2013's Old, and now, after spending this week with Atrocity Exhibition I've gotta say, it just might be his best record yet.
The first time I heard Danny Brown was on 2010's The Hybrid, and looking back, it's fairly subdued compared to the chaotic beauty he's thrown at us on everything that's followed. This was also the first record when he debuted his signature nasally tone, though only in doses; add in his freewheeling delivery and you felt like something genuinely new had emerged. However, new doesn't always mean great, or even good. Sometimes it just means...new, or 'interesting,' if I'm to quote my dad when I play him something to listen to that he hates but tries to spare my feelings. Bless. That's what The Hybrid was for me, intriguing enough for me to listen to his next output, but not enough for me to come back to. Thankfully I didn't have to wait long for that follow up, as XXX came out the very next year.
XXX was the official start of my fandom. The production was heavy and brooding, grungy, almost contradictory to Danny's high pitched tone and care free flow. That contradiction is crucial in what convinced me of his talent though, as it embodies what Danny represents; he raps confidently about his hard partying ways and the women he....spends time with, but there's often a grimness to it. Showing that even on songs that seem as simple as talking about partying, there's always more under the surface. While he may relish the lifestyle, he also understands the harm it causes. For people to casually dismiss Danny Brown is to deprive themselves of one of hip hops most enticing, and perplexing talents.
Like all of his releases, past and present, the track lists can be daunting at first glance (generally around 20 songs), though things move quickly as the majority of the tracks are under three minutes. Similar to flying through what may look like an intimidating book because of short chapters. It's worth noting though, that Atrocity Exhibition is his shortest release yet, at only 15 tracks, which is one of the main reasons that this album flies so high. It's stripped of all fat, barebones power, every song serving a purpose vital to the listening experience. While 2013's Old, which is widely regarded as his best record (and rightfully so), finally gave him the level of fame he's deserving of, Atrocity Exhibition is what cements that fame to these newcomers. Danny's no joke, and he's here to stay.
I talk a lot about a records flow, and the beauty of seamless track to track transitions, but like most things Danny Brown, this album acts as a contradiction to that. His sharp, often sudden stops and starts (listen to when he comes in on "Lost"), seems to enhance his records. Nothing about him is smooth, yet, as a whole, you appreciate the consistency of his inconstancies. Am I making sense? Danny Brown is predictably unpredictable, he's a chaos you can count on, and there's comfort in that as a listener. Comfort that in a world of cookie cutter performers and artist's adopting the styles of what's popular, he remains a constant question mark. I need that, and so do you.