Ever since the incredibly underrated artist Danny Brown released the album “XXX” in 2011, I constantly found myself comparing new releases in hip-hop to that album. There is something to be said about simplistic, direct, yet creative music with an unquestionable wave of personal investment behind it. Danny doesn’t just make music, rather he seems to ooze it, whether or not he likes it. While Danny’s second album “Old” was a solid project, and superior in some aspects with being overall more accessible and chalk-full of bangers, it certainly does not have the staying power of “XXX” – which has already cemented itself with classic status in the world of hip-hop – regardless of if the majority of hip-hop realizes it yet.
Danny Brown’s voice, attitude, and lyrical topics may be polarizing, but they are completely natural and genuine; Danny is not afraid to confront the reality of his life, and those he sees around him, and that has been true across all of his major releases. Danny Brown is incredibly self-aware, introspective, and unafraid to make music that others would think just wouldn’t work. If “XXX” was Danny at his purest, “Old” at his happiest, than Danny’s latest album “Atrocity Exhibition” is essentially Danny Brown at his most manic.
The main theme of “Atrocity Exhibition” is the exploration of the morbid, euphoric, and disorientating nature of drug abuse. Danny gave us glimpses of this life on “XXX”, but in comparison to how this theme is expanded on (greatly instrumentally so, more than anything) it honestly sounds like Danny barely scratched the surface of the topic on his debut album. However, “Atrocity Exhibition” is less an album discussing or exploring the topic of drug use, and more a literal sonic-drug trip: in a way, you feel like Danny is taking you on musical drug trip after another – each song being it’s own substance, with the ever persistent knowledge that each one is poison, and bringing your closer to utter insanity. Think of this as Detroit’s answer to “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas” with a wider “buffet” selection.
You are not going to hear these songs on the radio, at a club, or… well, much of anywhere else. Despite that truth, there is an undeniable quality, originality, and complexity to the album that will bring those with an open mind back to listen to the album over and over again. I find myself replaying so many of the songs on this album: “When it rain”, “Ain’t it funny”, “Tell me what I don’t know”, “Rolling Stone” are some of my favorite Danny Brown songs yet. While the previously mentioned songs lack the direct accessibility that will make them un-disputably legendary status, like nearly the entire track-list of “XXX”, they are certainly representative of the the musical evolution that Danny Brown has achieved as an artist. Danny’s sound was already iconic at the dropping of “XXX”, and has now morphed into an unafraid and unapologetic monster that remains unmatched by any other act in hip-hop.
This album is truly an experience. In a world of music where everything sounds familiar and similar to something else, Danny completely smashes your musical palette and it’s truly glorious. I highly encourage everyone to give this album a shot… and if it’s just not your cup of tea, at least “XXX” will sound about as accessible as some Ed Sheeran garbage – and you can even more appreciate that masterpiece.