Danny Brown has never done anything in half doses and his fourth record Atrocity Exhibition is no exception. There isn’t another hip hop act (past or present) that falls into the same lane as the 35-year-old enigma.
It would have been easy to put Brown’s left-field lyrics over a regular trap beat; it would still have been huge, but it wouldn’t have had the same impact as what he’s actually done: The production crawls all over your skin, tailormade for the most unique voice in the game. Plenty of people think that Brown is erratic and chaotic – and they’re right – but it is controlled. Like Jackie Chan’s “drunken fist” style of Kung Fu, wherein he tricks you into thinking he is a bumbling fool before you get fly-kicked, Danny Brown’s style is the genius misdirection of an artist in complete control of his craft.
The Detroit rapper’s voice eerily creeps out of a trap door at the beginning of the grimy and claustrophobic Downward Spiral – “I got to figure it out” crawls up your arms. On Tell Me What I Don’t Know and From The Ground, Brown uses his real voice – rather than his signature squall – and it feels really serious. I didn’t know that he had a ‘real voice’; he should use it more often. The star-studded Really Doe stands out as an album highlight. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Earl Sweatshirt all try to outdo each other – and Brown – in this battle royale.
If Lost and Golddust are the first days of living in a haunted house then Ain’t It Funny and Dance In The Water are the chaotic housewarming rave. When It Rain is the crack of thunder as Frankenstein’s monster is born – the pounding, pulsating, crowning jewel on Atrocity Exhibition.
This is Danny Brown outdoing himself. There is a dark, haunting rawness in every song on Atrocity Exhibition, which grabs you by the ankles and drags you into Brown’s world.
Atrocity Exhibition is out now via Warp.