2011 saw the breakthrough release of XXX, a free concept album by Detroit rapper, Danny Brown. Not only was it a star-making record, but its distinct and druggy style went on to reverberate as an influential force throughout broader pop music. LACHLAN KANONIUK reports.
Following on from his long-time-coming ascendency to fame, Brown has stepped things up with the release of his third studio album, Old, a sprawling and dichotomous insight into the psyche of one of modern rap’s most compelling minds.
You might expect him to be in the midst of a whirlwind of activity in the wake of Old’s release, but that isn’t the case as he answers the phone. “I’m in my home man, in Michigan. Just chillin’, haven’t been doing too much.”
Brown’s emergence onto the world stage happened as he entered his 30’s, sparking some literature about whether rap is no longer just a young person’s game. Whether or not that’s the case, Brown doesn’t feel like the title Old is a self-descriptor. “I don’t feel old at all. The name of my album has nothing to do with age or anything like that. Rap music gave me the chance to never grow up. I knew what I wanted to do from a young age, so I just stuck to that.”
After the phenomenal response of XXX, Brown’s next move was a hotly anticipated one. The two sides of Old could make for satisfying standalone releases, an indication of Brown’s resolve to provide a comprehensive package. “I just took my time to be honest. Everyone was like, ‘Are you gonna do some tapes?’ so I made it with that in mind – like a tape or a vinyl.”
Brown recently welcomed Siren – a Bengal cat into his family. “I got her from Ohio, they drove her up. She’s crazy. I had a cat before her that died, so I was missing a cat. I went online to try to find a nice cool cat. She cool, she just bad man,” he says with his distinct laugh. “She likes to get in trouble.”
In spite of his recent international success, he’s managed to find a comfortable work life balance. “Like I said, I just rap about living my life. So I have to live my life to have something to rap about. I’m in the living stage right now. I just want to hang out,” he offers with a relaxed air. “But sometimes I’ll be bored at home; then start to miss the road. We all like making money, and money take care of me and pay my bills, so if I have to go somewhere to make money, I’m gonna go,” he reasons.
After a series of Australian club shows in mid-2012 – “I remember having a good time, but I don’t remember much else” – Brown returns for a run of Laneway Festival dates in 2014. The festival environment, as Brown explains, is the most conducive one for the Danny Brown live show. “I didn’t make (the songs) for the club, I made them to perform at festivals…” As for what the future holds, he’s philosophical. “I’ve been doing this since I was in kindergarten, so as long as I’m able to breathe and talk I’ll be rapping. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.”
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SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 8 @ LANEWAY FESTIVAL, ESPLANADE PARK & WEST END, FREMANTLE
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