In many ways, the Picky Bastards writers are on a never-ending quest to enforce their music tastes upon each other.
So welcome to Do Believe The Hype – a series where an writer introduces a beloved artist to another writer who has yet to be convinced by their legend.
Today it’s Tom Burrows’ turn to convince Fran Slater of the genius of Danny Brown, with a carefully curated 11-track playlist (detailed below).
So. Danny Brown. A modern day hip-hop hero, right? A total and utter legend? From my previous experiences, I was yet to be convinced. In all honesty, those previous experiences weren’t huge, though; I had listened to Atrocity Exhibition quite a few times and wasn’t blown away, or even that interested, so decided that Danny was just one of those much loved artists that simply wasn’t for me.
Then he’d turn up on a feature and I’d think ‘okay, this guy can rap. It’s a shame he made that bang average album that everyone seems to love.’
A couple of the other Picky Bastards have long waxed lyrical about the guy, though, so he has always been one of those artists I’ve meant to revisit. Then Tom came along with an offer to convince me of the hype and I snapped his hand off.
Here are the eleven songs Tom hoped would convince me:
‘Tell Me What I Don’t Know’
Even on first listen I was struck by an unavoidable fact. I’ve been missing out. This eleven song playlist immediately showed me that Danny Brown is a dynamic and exciting artist who mixes it up across his albums but also has an identity that is truly his.
I was bopping my head to ‘The Return’ immediately, enjoying the fact that only one song into the playlist I was being treated to a bit of Freddie Gibbs alongside the main act. I enjoyed the plain aggression and bravado of ‘Pac Blood’. But it was when I reached the spectacular ‘Grown Up’ that I became totally convinced I’d made a mistake by writing off Mr Brown so easily. This song is dynamite. It mixes the old school with the new, features the best vocal performance on the playlist, and shows the masterful storytelling that is so crucial to all of the best hip-hop. The simple refrain of ‘who ever thought I’d be the greatest growing up’ says so much by saying so little.
If memory serves me well, I feel like 2019 album uknowwhatimsaying didn’t get the best reception on release. Based solely on the songs from that album that Tom featured here, I’m surprised. ‘Best Life’ is another track that uses its simplistic message to tell a strong survival story, and ‘Combat’ is another banger with some fascinating instrumentation.
After ‘Pac Blood’, there are two more songs from 2012 album XXX later in the playlist. I’m guessing this was his aggressive stage. Of the two further songs from this album, I enjoy the pure rage of ‘Monopoly’ but this track is one of the key examples of the one issue I had with Danny Brown by the time I was on my tenth or eleventh listen to Tom’s list. More on that in a minute. ‘Ewnesw’, on the other hand, is my favourite track on offer after ‘Grown Up’. I love the juxtaposition of the laid back and hypnotic verses next to the bellow of the chorus. ‘Lonely’ from Old would make up my top three.
Really, the only track on this list that never grabs me is ‘Tell Me What I Don’t Know’. As this is the only track from Atrocity Exhibition, maybe I was just unlucky with the album I started with. Because after listening to this playlist I have to say that Danny Brown ticks so many of my hip-hop boxes. I am looking forward to digging deeper.
There are, of course, a couple of drawbacks. Particularly on ‘Pac Blood’ and ‘Monopoly’ we do get some heavily misogynistic lyrics that are difficult to listen to. As I dig more deeply into Danny’s career, I hope they prove to be anomalies that have been left long in the past. We’ll see.
Do I Believe The Hype?
To put it simply, yes. I am well and truly sold on Danny Brown now and I am looking forward to listening to more of his work. He is so often mentioned as a modern great. Now, when people talk about him, I will no longer have to pretend I have missed the conversation while I bend down to tie my shoelaces. I can have an opinion. And that opinion will be that Danny Brown is fucking great.
Words by Fran Slater