Rappers have gotten away with rocking all sorts of hairstyles, from pigtails and Jheri curls to whatever it was Coolio used to do to his locks, without inspiring much comment, but people will not shut up about Detroit rapper Danny Brown’s choppy, asymmetric ’do, which has been described as everything from “anime-inspired” to a bad Willow Smith knockoff.
Brown, who opened for Das Racist at the 9:30 Club on Saturday night, has said that his refusal to conform to some sort of rap dress code has at times hindered his career (allegedly, Brown’s fondness for super-skinny jeans is the only thing that stopped rapper 50 Cent from signing him to G-Unit Records). So, earlier this year, right around the time that Brown finally inked a deal (with Fool’s Gold Records) and released his “XXX” project, the jeans got even tighter, and he got a funny haircut. The combination of the new look and signing to a label known for outre acts made some wonder if the wonderfully strange underground darling, stamped by everyone from G-Unit’s Tony Yayo to lyrical genius (and fellow Detroit MC) Elzhi, was moving too far outside of some arbitrary definition of hip-hop. But, if the hallmarks of a compelling MC are still clever lyrics and rocking a crowd, Brown’s live show helps silence that chatter.
In a set heavy on “XXX” and light on last year’s excellent “The Hybrid” or anything from his “Detroit State of Mind” mix tape series, Brown jumped around among street rap, shock rap, party rap, stoner rap and a ton of other sub-genres, giving a unique take on each. Brown, who is in possession of a bizarrely nasal voice and repeats the word/catchphrase “style” nonstop, does playful and raunchy but with maturity and self-awareness; he does street rap, but with a sharp sense of humor.
On “DNA,” he examines a genetic predisposition for drug use; “Radio Song” is his riff on commercial music that contains approximately five words suited for airplay. “Lie4” is a broke baller anthem for these recessionary times, on which Brown hilariously raps about “income tax swag.” And on “I Will,” which he prefaced as being “for the ladies,” Brown completely took the focus off his hair and put it back where it belongs — on his mouth.