Danny Brown leads a boisterous — but brief — party at the Howard Theatre


WASHINGTON, DC - November 24, 2013 - Rapper Danny Brown performs at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. Brown released his third studio album, Old, in October. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson / For The Washington Post) (Kyle Gustafson/For The Washington Post)
November 25, 2013

Midway through Danny Brown’s performance at the Howard Theatre on Sunday, a young woman jumped onto the stage. Brown grinned and kept rapping until a security guard whisked her away. Moments later, a young man tried the same thing, but Brown quickly shoved him back into the crowd.

Soon another guy jumped up there before quickly diving off. Then another girl appeared and stood sheepishly until Brown gave her a hug. After all that activity, Brown needed to calm down. “I just wanna smoke a blunt right now,” he said. During his performance of “Blunt After Blunt,” a fan passed what appeared to be a joint to the rapper and he took a quick puff. That pretty much encapsulates Brown’s wild night at the U Street venue.

For 45 minutes, you could barely understand a word of Brown’s hyperactive flow. But when a new song dropped, he stuck out his tongue and raised his left arm with a devil-horn rock salute. Brown nodded, his hair flopping around, and those young people absorbed every earsplitting beat and bass line. They didn’t need permission to turn up; they were all-in from the very beginning. And Brown, with his toothless smile and distinctive squeal of a voice, was a walking F5 tornado. His face-melting bravado and rapid-fire rhymes swirled fiercely. There was little structure and very little focus, but who cares? This was a party.

On his recent album, “Old,” we hear two sides of the enigmatic Detroit emcee. There’s the reflective man still getting over the things he has seen and done, and the noisy guy with a penchant for drugs and other shenanigans. It was tough to discern the real Brown from the caricature. Is he the quiet, reflective type? Or do his antics mask deeper insecurities?

He’s humble if nothing else. Brown’s appearance on stage wasn’t accompanied by a glitzy light show or grand announcement of his arrival. Instead, the rapper just showed up, took off his coat and spit verses from “Break It (Go),” as tribal drums enveloped the spacious theater. Songs like “Smokin’ and Drinkin’ ” and “Express Yourself” held particular resonance with the young listeners, while “I Will” painted a sleazy picture of sex in a hotel room.

By the time Brown got around to the popular “Dip,” the fans were fully engaged. Some danced offbeat, others waved their hands with jovial ferocity. But then, just like that, Brown was gone. They stood around screaming for an encore. Brown’s DJ packed up his equipment. Then the house lights came on. The party was over much too soon.

Moore is a freelance writer.

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