Danny Brown album review: ‘Old’


Recording artist Danny Brown performs during the Life is Beautiful festival on October 27, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
November 21, 2013
DANNY BROWN
“Old”

Kindred spirits: A$AP Rocky, OutKast, Wiley

Show: Sunday at the Howard Theater. Show starts at 8 p.m. 202-803-2899. www.thehowardtheatre.com. $17 in advance, $20 at the door.

At age 32, Danny Brown isn’t exactly grizzled. But the Detroit rapper’s chronological age isn’t the reason he titled his third album “Old.” This musically inventive, impressively consistent release ponders various meanings of “new” and “old.”

The 19-song set opens with “Side A (Old),” which worries that the performer’s style and persona are worn-out. “They want that old Danny Brown,” he complains. They get him, too, on tracks that discuss drugs and sex in explicit, mostly unquotable terms. Then Brown goes deeper, conjuring inner-city life in vignettes that can be openly grim but sometimes hide their pain. The chirpy “Wonderbread,” for example, sonically obscures its tale of getting beaten up for the bread to buy a loaf.

That old Danny Brown (ne Daniel Sewell) ponders a new life in songs such as “Clean Up,” which is about quitting drugs.

But the album’s newness also includes a switch from traditional looped-sample backing tracks to trendy synth-based ones. Most of these arrive in the album’s second half, which begins with “Side B (Dope Song).”

Electro-goth duo Purity Ring joins the rapper for “25 Bucks,” which broods rather than wallops. So does the closing “Float On,” even though its lyrics return to the “Wonderbread” mugging. Those old memories aren’t going away.

Mark Jenkins

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