Danny Brown had a lot to live up to after his 2011 release ‘XXX’. Since the release of that album, Brown has developed an image as a wild drug obsessed party animal – but Danny Brown is much more than that. The intelligent lyrics, clever wordplay and reflective personal exploration of ‘XXX’ is often forgotten as people tend to focus on Brown’s depicted lifestyle.
On a first listen to ‘Old’, I was relieved to hear that Danny’s introspective side is not left behind. The record is split: the first half is more introspective and delves into some of the horror stories from his turbulent and tumultuous childhood, whereas the second half, from ‘Side B (Dope Song)’, reinstates that crazy, party animal caricature we’ve had beaten into our heads by the music media. It’s interesting to hear Brown rap in a more straight subdued style in the first half of the album. In tracks like ‘Torture’ we hear a more solemn, bitter Danny Brown than we’ve ever heard before, lamenting “all the shit that I’ve seen…it’s torture”. In tracks ‘Lonely’ and ‘Clean Up’, we hear a more mature, self-aware Danny Brown with the sense of a self-conscious desire to perhaps leave behind his drug habits and regain a little bit of stability.
In the second half of the album, we see the other side of Brown’s split personality and a return to the shrill, abrasive style and drug-fuelled eccentricity that we’re probably now a little more used to. The drug escapism, sex and distorted electronic beats of ‘XXX’ come back with a bang and Danny slips back into his favoured vices. The album concludes with ‘Float On’, a track that’s mellow and self-contemplative enough to be on Side-A, further highlighting that ‘Old’ presents an artist in a state of change and reflection. Danny Brown has certainly grown up artistically – this is a brilliant hip hop album and it leaves me wondering, after so clearly presenting his conflicting states of mind, where he might go from here.